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.
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
The video of the Notre Dame spire falling into the flames of the cathedral on fire is not as indelibly impressed on my mind as some other events. But it is surely a strong and lasting image. That beautiful tower and iconic edifice is a shell of its former self. Who would have thought it?
Who would have thought it also that the twelve closest followers of Jesus would end up in an argument as to which was the greatest…on the very night Jesus had instituted the Lord’s Supper and told them he would be betrayed, handed over to be mocked and killed? Who would have thought that those who had been the closest to the humble servant of all would jockey for a position higher than the others? Who would have thought that these would worry and fret to the extent that they were actually placing themselves higher than Jesus?
We would never do such a thing. We would never wonder why we would experience betrayal, suffering not of our own making, or failure when we’ve done everything right. We would never wonder how God could close his ears to us who call on his so earnestly and faithfully. We would never consider ourselves so aggrieved that we need not forgive one who has hurt us. We would never close our eyes to the needs of another simply because we’re too tired, too lazy, or too ignorant of what we actually should do?
Those are sarcastic comments, for which I apologize to the reader. We’ve done all these things and more. We may be more subtle and sophisticated in our position jockeying. But we do worry about our proper place of honor.
Our true place of honor is at the foot of the cross of Jesus. The ground is level there. There will come a day of glory. There will come a day of victory. But for now we must embrace our need for this Savior Jesus who will suffer and die for our sins.
I don’t believe we’re any better than Peter or any of the other disciples. But even Peter – the one who would deny knowing Jesus three times – will be given the opportunity to strengthen his brothers. That’s the beauty of Jesus gift of repentance, faith, forgiveness, and salvation. Not only does Jesus forgive. He restores. Not only will he restore. He empowers. Not only will he empower. He will honor. Not only will he honor. He will seat us at his table of salvation, redemption, glory and victory.
First we must walk with him through the valley of the shadow of death. Then will come the table of victory in the presence of our enemies. Then will come eternal joy and life.