The Passion of our Lord

by Crossings

THE GREATNESS OF THE ONE WHO SERVES
Luke 22:24-23:56
(The Passion of our Lord)
analysis by Michael Hoy


22:24A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29and I confer on you just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.


DIAGNOSIS: Seeking Greatness in Authority

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Who is the greatest?
The evening of our Lord’s passion in marred with a dispute. The disciples, while they are at their last supper with their Lord, get embroiled in an argument. The basis for the argument is perhaps sparked by Jesus’ words that one of those at the table with him would betray him. This is interpreted as a need to try to show off one’s superiority over the others. One-upmanship is not limited to the disciples, however. We seek to shore up our own personhood by asserting our own greatness. In fact, Jesus describes it as the common way the whole world operates.

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Denial, Betrayal
What is really being covered up in all of this sham, however, is that one and all are engaged in a process of denial of their Lord. For Peter, this would be the hardest word to hear. Thinking of himself as great, he would not believe that he could ever fail his Lord by letting Jesus down in his most trying time. “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Peter boldly asserts (22:33). But when a few servants in the courtyard would link him to his Lord at the fireside, Peter would not be able to hold up to his great claims about his boldness (22:54-62). It is not only Judas who ends up betraying his Lord. Peter is guilty as well. The veneer of greatness can not stand up to the critical test of one’s pride.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Disgraced, discredited
Peter’s quick departure in tears from the courtyard from the simple glance of Jesus in his direction is enough indication that Peter could not live up to his pronouncements. Neither can the “kings of the Gentiles” who boast of their greatness. One and all end up being disgraced when the true colors are unfurled. But in the last analysis, it is not only a disgrace before others that is the ultimate embarrassment. The truly lowest place is that one and all of us are caught in the act before God, before whom we are finally discredited.

PROGNOSIS: The Greatness in Serving

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: The Great Benefactor
On the night of his betrayal, however, Jesus speaks of the truly Great Benefactor (one who makes good). While all other benefactors cannot live up to their title, Jesus does. His making good is by becoming humble. And his leadership is by way of service for others. Using the analogy of those dining and those waiting on the diners, Jesus self-describes himself as the latter. But that is the basis of his greatness. His final hour is his time to make good for one and for all by taking the lowest place in order to be discredited on their behalf, in order to bestow on one and all the good graces of his service. This is his passion-ate mission: to serve us.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Standing By
Taking that lowest place is embarrassing in a different sense. Now that our Lord has gone the distance in his trial in taking the lowest place, there is no more that we can do than watch him in his service. We are put in the awkward place where we cannot obtain that kind of greatness which is the greatness of our Lord alone. We must stand by (22:28), and ultimately stand on, the greatness of his serving us. But there is a giddy humor in this standing by. Our standing by is to take our place by his side, but not to render his kind of service; it is, rather, to “remember” what his service is all about and to celebrate that service. And it is in that remembering (22:19) and in our being remembered (23:42) that standing by is a privilege and a joy.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Great seats
One and all who share in the passion-ate mission of our Lord’s service on our behalf get to share in the whole fruits he has to bring: to confer on us a kingdom. And having that kingdom empowers us to be the ones on the thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (22:30). But such “judging” is not an occasion for condemning others. Instead, like the judges of old, it is a place for us from which we get to join in the rescue of others–all built on the strong arms of the good-making waiter who has rescued us by his service and his passion-ate ministry.

Author

  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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In the early 1970s two seminary professors listened to the plea of some lay Christians. “Can you help us live out our faith in the world of daily work?” they asked. “Can you help us connect Sunday worship with our lives the other six days of the week?”  That is how Crossings was born.

 

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