Brotherly Love

24 And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ 26 But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. 27 For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; 29 and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you 30that you may 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

Out of a discussion of who might be the traitor among the disciples arose a dispute as to who was the greatest. You find this kind of contention amongst brothers all the time. It goes from needling to being at each other’s throats. The word chosen to describe this interaction is phileoneikia, used once and only here in the New Testament, meaning the love of strife. There are other sharper words that could have been used, so when I see “phileo” in a word, having a younger brother, and me having three sons in a row, and him having three sons in a row, and my son having three sons in a row, and his son having three sons in a row, I couldn’t help but recall all the “normal” contentiousness among brothers as they grow up.

Since the disciples reclined around Jesus, no doubt in a pecking order, the stage was set for interaction with such a provocative prospect of betraying their master on the table. Jesus uses the occasion to teach humility and service. He never let the honest expression of human nature go to waste. Since our “word” suggests kind of a brotherly squabble, Jesus teaches that in his realm one must be like the youngest in the family, and the one who by rank must serve rather than be served. Yet Jesus was the greatest servant of all, who most likely washed their feet that night (John 13:5). It’s almost as if he is dispatching the childish disputes among them for good at this moment. He says, look, where you’re going as my representatives you’ll be stepping into my shoes, and ultimately you’ll end up serving as judges in my kingdom. They would all be growing up quickly in the tragic days to come.

11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

About Rick Reynolds

You'll find me in the far right hand corner of evangelical Christianity. Been studying the Word for nearly 45 years and counting.
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