Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. You have stayed with Me in My time of trial. And just as My Father has granted Me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.Luke 22:24-30
So far we have seen that Jesus reveals the fact that there is a traitor supping at the table with them. Luke has written this account in such a way as to call into question the state of heart of each disciple. The inference is that it could have been any one of them. As they debate this matter, their thoughts turn from the negative implications of betrayal, to discussing which of them is the greatest. Oh, how easily we can miss the point, or deflect it to a subject more palatable. And remember dear reader, we are not just talking about the disciples of old. Luke is writing this ordered account for Theophilus, the God lover. In other words, it’s for you too.
During the discussion, Jesus makes it clear to them that they are not to discuss who is the greatest. I can imagine Him saying, “Why did you get on to this topic guys? I told you, one of you would betray Me. I wasn’t talking favourites, I was talking about those who are opposed to Me. Why are you talking about who among you is the greatest? If you want to talk about who’s the greatest: see that wine waiter over there. You should be like him. Aspire to be a servant of all. Do you all remember how this meal started off? Do you remember what I did for you all? Including the traitor. Yes, that’s right, Peter. How could you forget? But do you know, you will? Just wait and see. Aspire to be the servant of all. I have told you that a number of times but it hasn’t sunken in yet it seems. But in time you will get it.”
Now I return to the questions I posed for you a few days ago:
- Why does Jesus close their argument by telling them they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel?
- What have they just done to deserve the privilege of judging their fellow Jews? One would think they are not deserving of judging others when they have lapsed into a dispute at this crucial time.
- Why the reference to the twelve tribes of Israel?
- Is there a relationship between twelve apostles and twelve tribes here?
- But if so, surely they have lost Judas. Surely Judas can’t be included in the judging.
Interesting questions but let’s first look at the big picture. I told you before that this closing segment, Luke 22:28-30 is found in Matt 19:28-30. But there are some differences. The passage focuses on a man who asked what he had to do to be saved. Jesus reminded him of the Law, conveniently missing out a segment. The disciples concluded the section by commenting that it’s impossible to be saved then. Matthew attached the statement about the camel going through the eye of a needle, which Luke didn’t include. At that time Matthew continued with the segment which we have before us today, to close this segment. But there are differences between the way Matthew has included it and how Luke has used it here.
“You have stayed with Me in My time of trial. And just as My Father has granted Me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.Luke 22:28-30
Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then”.Matthew 19:28-30
Similar verses yet handled so differently. Matthew’s purpose is different, and he includes with it the comments regarding receiving a hundred times as much the things you have given up to follow Jesus. Luke uses these verses too but in a different place. It is like he knew about these verses but chose to use them here rather than in their “original” location. We can’t be sure. But clearly Luke has opted for putting them in this place and linked it to the fact that the disciples have stuck with Jesus through all of the trials.
There is another option and that is, that it is Jesus who is generating the positioning of this element and not Luke’s editing at all. Again we have those two options. Luke edited the material and placed it here or Jesus spoke it at this time. It’s possible that Jesus made the comment in multiple places over the three years of ministry. It doesn’t have to be a once only time it was said. Likely as not, Jesus repeated things a number of times. That would have helped the disciples and others remember what Jesus said because He said the important things a number of times. Like John said, if we were to write down all that Jesus said and all that was written about Him, the world couldn’t contain the books.
What to make of this closing segment? There are some difficulties interpreting it. It is not easy.
Notice the way ‘You’ and ‘I’ are contrasted. ‘You’ is in the emphatic position in the sentence in verse 28. You (disciples) have stayed with me in my time of trial. I now grant you the right. You have [diamēno] with Me – remained with Me, stood by Me, stood by Me faithfully. Persistent loyalty comes out in the compound verb as well as the perfect tense of the verb and preposition linking it all to Christ. It could be translated, “You have steadfastly remained loyal to Me and have continued to remain with Me”. The strength of the construction is found in the ongoing nature of the action. You did it in the past and you continue to do it now. He is commending the disciples for their faithfulness.
What time of trial is He talking about? Is Jesus talking about the difficulties He has encountered or is He referring to the testings or temptations they encountered? The word [peirasmos] could mean either one. If the difficulties are in focus then He is likely talking about the dangers, the tribulations, the opposition they have faced, the hostility of the authorities and some crowds, etc. They have stuck with Him through it all. If He is talking about testings and temptations, then what is in focus are the spiritual trials encountered. The temptations by the devil in the wilderness, the enticement for Him to pick up His Kingly role NOW. The temptation to precipitate the work of God by doing miracles to demonstrate who He is. To protect His name from ridicule when people didn’t believe Him.
What is it that Jesus grants the disciples as a result of their faithfulness? It is either the right to rule, which God the Father has assigned to Jesus and so Jesus passes it on to them — which incidentally, effectively restores the right to rule and have dominion which was handed to man at the time of Adam but was removed. Or it is the right to eat and drink at Jesus’ table in heaven. The direct object of the assigning or granting is either this right to rule or have dominion, or it is the right to eat and drink. In one sense, the two are one and one flows from the other. Effectively they achieve the same result anyway. Being seated at the Feast of the Lamb in Glory bestows on you the right to rule as well. The imagery is of the Messianic Banquet in heaven. That being the case, it merges the idea of the servant attitude now, with the right to rule being given later. Jesus has skillfully blended the statement He made about the servants at the table, with the very thing they have been debating — who is the greatest? Take a lowly place now and you will be exalted later.
At the inception of the millennial reign of Christ, the disciples will be given thrones from which to rule. This statement of fact is strongest in Matthew’s version. But in Luke there is a dual result. The first stage is the granting of the right to be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in the first instance. And note that Jesus grants that to them NOW. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This is the subsequent thing which is granted to them but it awaits its future fulfillment.
Lastly, what are we to make of the disciples being given 12 thrones and judging the twelve tribes of Israel? There are divided interpretations over this verse. Some see it literally as pronouncing judgment on the twelve tribes. Not that they themselves will make the judgments but they will pronounce judgment on the basis of their acceptance or rejection of the Christ. Many understand the meaning to be Israelites – descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Others consider it simply to mean their fellow Jews. The word to judge [krino] can mean both judge and to rule over or govern. And how do we interpret the fact that there will be 12 thrones and the disciples will judge the Jews? Does that mean that Judas is involved in this judgment? I don’t think that is a conceivable outcome. Judas has abdicated his responsibility by his act of betrayal. Some see that Mathias, the substitute disciple in place of Judas is involved here by association. That his selection as a disciple was prefigured. But I don’t hold with that thought when reading Luke’s account. In fact, Luke skilfully (or Jesus ) gets around the matter of how many would be judging by saying simply, you will sit on thrones. Luke does not record that there will be twelve thrones. Only Matthew does, as the writer of the Jewish gospel. Luke rather writes, “You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
I will leave you now to ponder all this and return in the next Gem to wrap it up and lead into the following segment. Time for you to grasp all the detail and put it together. There is a further link coming. These segments all flow together.
It doesn’t take much to surprise others, but to surprise oneself, now that is a great feat.Kristen Hartley
The LEARNERS will inherit the world while the KNOWERS will be beautifully prepared for a world that no longer exists!Rick Godwin
Life can seem either very long or very short, according to how you live it.Paulo Coelho
I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.Joyce Meyer
When life is tough, talk to God. When life is great, talk to God.Anon