Christ’s Church has been at the centre of the culture for a very long time. Over recent years and at increasing speed that central position has been lost. The church is hurtling towards the margins. Followers of Jesus have often felt that they need to be in the place of power and influence to be effective….Is this really true? On the night before he goes to the cross, hours before he is arrested, Jesus tries to tell his disciples otherwise. This is Luke 22:
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel….35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Do you see the struggle? They dispute over who is the greatest. They sense that power will be at the secret of their success. We believe the same thing don’t we? Jesus gives them another way, his way, the way of the upside down Kingdom of God; Jesus calls them to the way of service. Although he was the greatest one in the room he is the one that serves, although he created all things he serves them dinner and washes their feet (John 13). Jesus assures them that there will be a day when they will sit on thrones, but until that day, the way is service at the table rather than sitting at the place of power. Jesus followers are to be marked by humble, loving, sacrificial service like their Lord. Jesus reminds that his work will be accomplished by serving, he had every right to be at the table but he is the one that serves. It’s through service this king will conquer and rule, we must do likewise.
Numbered with the transgressors
When we hear what Jesus has to say next (v35f) we might be happy simply to be on the margins. Jesus tells the disciples that within 24 hours he will be executed like an outlaw, “numbered with the transgressors.v37” In these verses he tells his followers that they will also find themselves in the same position. V35-36 is like this “Remember those days you went on mission and were supported? When you needed nothing with you? Those days are over! Now instead of support, expect war!” He tells them in days to come they will need to support themselves, they will need to prepare themselves for trouble and danger and sword, where they were once welcomed. I don’t think Jesus calls them to take up literal swords (Luke 22:51 suggests otherwise) but he prepares his followers for hostility towards them. We feel the need to be embraced by the society if the gospel is to take hold, that’s not what Jesus teaches here.
We long to be “in power” but that is not where we are supposed to be. We think that the gospel spreads as we find ourselves as the dominant voice within the community, apparently not so. We want to be the darlings of the wider culture, but that is not where we should expect to find ourselves as Jesus’s followers. Jesus was executed like an outlaw, all who follow him should expect to be “numbered with the transgressors” too. Jesus gave his life in loving service in order to save, we should go and do likewise.