An Argument Erupts
EARLIER in the evening, Jesus taught a beautiful lesson in humble service by washing his apostles’ feet. Afterward, he introduced the Memorial of his approaching death. Now, especially in view of what has just taken place, a surprising incident occurs. His apostles become involved in a heated argument over which one of them seems to be the greatest! Apparently, this is part of an ongoing dispute.
Recall that after Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, the apostles argued over who among them was the greatest. Moreover, James and John requested prominent positions in the Kingdom, resulting in further contention among the apostles. Now, on his last night with them, how saddened Jesus must be to see them bickering again! What does he do?
Rather than scold the apostles for their behavior, once again Jesus patiently reasons with them: “The kings of the nations lord it over them, and those having authority over them are called Benefactors. You, though, are not to be that way. . . . For which one is greater, the one reclining at the table or the one ministering? Is it not the one reclining at the table?” Then, reminding them of his example, he says: “But I am in your midst as the one ministering.”
Despite their imperfections, the apostles have stuck with Jesus during his trials. So he says: “I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” This personal covenant between Jesus and his loyal followers joins them to him to share his royal dominion. Only a limited number of 144,000 are finally taken into this covenant for a Kingdom.
Although the apostles are presented with this marvelous prospect of sharing with Christ in Kingdom rule, they are at present spiritually weak. “All of you will be stumbled in connection with me on this night,” says Jesus. However, telling Peter that He has prayed in his behalf, Jesus urges: “When once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.”
“Little children,” Jesus explains, “I am with you a little longer. You will look for me; and just as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ I say also to you at present. I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”
“Lord, where are you going?” Peter asks.
“Where I am going you cannot follow me now,” Jesus responds, “but you will follow afterwards.”
“Lord, why is it I cannot follow you at present?” Peter wants to know. “I will surrender my soul in your behalf.”
“Will you surrender your soul in my behalf?” Jesus asks. “Truly I say to you, You today, yes, this night, before a cock crows twice, even you will disown me three times.”
“Even if I should have to die with you,” Peter protests, “I will by no means disown you.” And while the other apostles join in saying the same thing, Peter boasts: “Although all the others are stumbled in connection with you, never will I be stumbled!”
Referring to the time when he sent the apostles out on a preaching tour of Galilee without purse and food pouch, Jesus asks: “You did not want for anything, did you?”
“No!” they reply.
“But now let the one that has a purse take it up, likewise also a food pouch,” he says, “and let the one having no sword sell his outer garment and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be accomplished in me, namely, ‘And he was reckoned with lawless ones.’ For that which concerns me is having an accomplishment.”
Jesus is pointing to the time when he will be impaled with evildoers, or lawless ones. He is also indicating that his followers will thereafter face severe persecution. “Lord, look! here are two swords,” they say.
“It is enough,” he answers. As we will see, having the swords with them will soon permit Jesus to teach another vital lesson. Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:24-38; John 13:31-38; Revelation 14:1-3.
▪ Why is the apostles’ argument so surprising?
▪ How does Jesus handle the argument?
▪ What is accomplished by the covenant Jesus makes with his disciples?
▪ What new commandment does Jesus give, and how important is it?
▪ What overconfidence does Peter display, and what does Jesus say?
▪ Why are Jesus’ instructions about carrying a purse and a food pouch different from those he gave earlier?