And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.…
Through our Lord's faithful dealing the disciples had been led to wholesome selfsuspicion. They cried out at the possibility of a betrayal of the Master, "Lord, is it I?" But no sooner have their minds been relieved through the singling out of Judas than they swing round again to self-confidence and even base ambition. There, at the table of the Lord, in spite of the hallowed associations, they speculate who is to be greatest in the coming kingdom. Jesus has consequently to check this nascent ambition. He does so by ennobling -
I. THE SPIRIT OF SERVICE. (Vers. 24-27.) Now, the world's idea is that it is noble to exercise authority, to be able to order people about. In fact, the world has come to call men "benefactors" who have done nothing but command other people. What tributes are paid to princes, who have done nothing all their lives but issue orders and receive the homage and service of other people! A blear-eyed world is ready, as Christ here shows, to pronounce such princes the benefactors of their age and country. But he has come into the world to ennoble the opposite idea. Here at this very feast he has been as one that serveth. His whole life, moreover, has been a public service. Everywhere he has just considered how he could serve others. To minister, not be ministered unto, was his continual care. To make the service of others glorious in the eyes of discerning men was one great purpose of his earthly life. This reveals also the very spirit of the Divine life. God is Lord of all because Servant of all. He sustains all, as he has created all; and his greatness is the greatness of ministration. It is only Oriental barbarism which supposes greatness to consist in indolent and luxuriant state. Here, then, is the field of genuine ambition. Let us try to be first in the field of service; let us do our best and most for the benefit of all about us; and then alone shall we become noble and Christ-like.
II. CHRIST INDICATES THE RESULTANT INFLUENCE. (Vers. 28-30.) To these disciples, who continue with Christ in his temptations, he appoints a kingdom. In this kingdom they are to have thrones, and to be judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. In this way our Lord indicates the influence which these men, who entertain his spirit of service, will acquire. And when we consider the history of Christianity, we see that even in the world of humanity these humble servants of God and mankind have become kings and judges. It is by their deliverances in the primitive age that men are judging themselves and being judged. The apostles are pre-eminently the sovereigns of this new and better time. And this posthumous influence on earth is only a faint reflection of their influence in heaven. Now, is not this to encourage every serviceable soul? Let each of us be only content to serve, to do whatever a brother needs, and by our service we acquire influence and kingship. The world is really ruled by obliging, serviceable, meek, and earnest men.
III. CHRIST NEXT POINTS OUT TO PETER HIS DANGER, RECOVERY, AND CONSEQUENT USEFULNESS. (Vers. 31-34.) For, strange to say, temptation is overruled as well as service to the creation of influence. There is in Peter's nature a good deal of pride and vain-glory to be winnowed out. There is wheat within him, but also chaff. Now, Satan had set his mind upon the fall of Peter; but Jesus has already prayed for him that his faith may not fail. Here was Peter's safeguard in the timely intercession of his Master. ( How watchful the Lord was and is for souls! Oh, how our want of watchfulness stands rebuked! Yet Peter was permitted to fall under temptation; but he was won back again, converted the second time, so to speak, by the loving look of Jesus; and thus destined to become a strengthener of the brethren. So that our Lord's prayers for us may be that, through permitted humiliations and tears and penitence, we may pass on to power. It is only when self-confidence, as in Peter's case, has been purged out of us by humiliating discoveries of our personal weakness, that we are in a position to undertake the care and strengthening of brethren. Broken-hearted Simon becomes, after Pentecost, the reliable Rock-man, worthy of the new name, Peter.
IV. THE CONTRASTED POLICIES OF CONFIDENCE AND OF PRUDENCE. (Vers. 35-38.) In sending the disciples out on their first missions, Jesus relied on the hospitality of the people as a fitting support for his agents. Going to the people as philanthropists, working miracles, preaching the advent of Messiah, they would meet with such support as would be all-sufficient. This was the policy of confidence - the reliance on the people for entire support. But when the world turned against Christ, and realized how opposed he was to its worldliness, then the disciples would require to exercise all possible prudence. They would require to look out for themselves, and even to fight for their own hand. That is to say, there are times when we may trust the world, and times when we are warranted in distrusting it. When is it, we are inclined to ask, that the prudential temper must take the place of confidence? When the world is determined on injustice. Thus at this time the world is about to reckon Christ among the transgressors, and to do him manifest injustice. The fit of unfairness was upon it, and the disciples should then stand in self-defence. But other days would dawn again, when disciples will be warranted in pursuing a policy of public confidence, and thus giving the world the chance of compensation. Let us wisely consider the "signs of the times," and act accordingly. Christ will guide us to the policy which is best, if we prayerfully ask him. - R.M.E. ]PGBR>
Parallel VersesKJV: And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.