Sermon: The Great Battle for Humility (Luke 22:21-30)

The Great Battle for Humility

Luke 22:21-30

Introduction

Primary Claim

Christ’s followers are called to fight for humility and to resist pride and arrogance.

Human Condition

We all share in the common temptation to seek notoriety, fame, wealth, to seem important, or to be seen as great.  You might say to yourself, I don’t struggle with those kinds of things at all.  If you ever think about what someone else thinks or have a fear of man you do struggle and tend toward these things.

We’re shown in this passage just how quickly we can get off track and just how much we need a Savior.  The disciples had just listened to Jesus teach on the true meaning of Passover.  They again heard the fact that He was about to be turned over to the Romans and crucified.  They had just heard some of the weightiest truths ever heard by human ears and the next thing they focus on is their status in God’s Kingdom…who will be the greatest.  We see human pride in contrast to the humility of Christ.  On one hand, Jesus is about to give His life as a ransom and then on the other, we see the twelve disciples trying to jockey for greatness.  Sin will consume us if we don’t fight against it.

Notice with me how this account of the disciple’s argument shows mankind’s need for a Savior.  Also notice, that Jesus patiently teaches them and even gives them some encouragement hours before His death.   Jesus teaches them that rather than behaving like the world behaves, His disciples exercise humility.

Please hear God’s Word for GCC today…

Luke 22:21-30

21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

24 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. [1]

1.  We Must Fight Against Sin

21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

I want to begin by reminding everyone that for anyone including us, there is no sin outside the realm of possibility.  Never think, when you hear of someone falling into some great sin that it could never happen to you.  We must stay alert because when we think we’ve arrived or when we think we’re doing well, it’s often in those instances we can fall the hardest.

Here we have the example of the sin of Judas.  This is really not too surprising.  We have been introduced to Judas as the betrayer.  We’ve learned that Judas’ passion wasn’t Jesus but what he thought Jesus could do for him.  He followed the Lord as long as there were prospects of greatness just over the horizon for him.  As soon as he realized there were no signs of personal prosperity for him, he defected and became a pawn of Satan.  Judas chose his path and Satan helped.

There is one thing we need to see in this passage.  We briefly touched on it last week, but I want to look a little more closely at these verses.

Jesus says that the one who is going to betray Him is, in fact, seated with them around the table.  He went even so far as to tell everyone that the hands of His betrayer are on the table.  I imagine just about everyone had their hands on the table.  So, when Jesus spoke those words probably everyone lunged back in order to remove their hands from off the table.

Here, we, as the readers of the Bible, know something that the Apostles didn’t know.  We know who Jesus’ betrayer is.  We know that it is Judas and we’ve known this just about from the beginning.

Luke 6:

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. [2]

We know what sort of person Judas was.  We know, but the Apostles at this point don’t.

Judas is the hight of hypocrisy.  He has kept his intentions hidden.  No one suspects Judas.  Jesus knows what is going to happen.  Jesus knows who His betrayer is but no one else does.

Jesus goes on to say,

22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

In this verse, we are made aware of the fact that Judas is culpable for the sinful acts he is about to commit and God has ordained that they will take place just as Judas will carry them out.  On the one hand God’s plan is working just as it always does, perfectly and Judas, in this case, is carrying out God’s plan voluntarily and will be held responsible for the sinful acts he alone commits.

Under God’s overarching plan, which encompasses everything, Judas acts freely, making his own choices.  Within certain boundaries man does have freewill.  Man can decide certain things, desire certain things, make decisions, and act on them.  Judas is making choices in line with his sinful nature.  He loves money more than Jesus so he follows his desires for money.  He sells out Jesus for four months wages.

For centuries theologians have disputed these things, namely, If God is sovereign and His plan always comes to pass then humans cannot be held accountable for their sin that works to bring God’s divine decree about.

I realize that is a lot to think about.  However, it’s true just the same, Jesus knows it’s true…22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

Paul knows it’s true…

Ephesians 1:

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [3]

According to the Apostle Paul, all things are going according to the council of God’s will.  I take all things to mean all things.  Everything works according to God’s plan…good things, bad things and in-between things.  To say otherwise is to deny the sovereignty of God and to go against multiple passages of Scripture.

As we’ve seen all the different actors in the drama of the crucifixion, the biblical conclusion is they all were acting out of their own free will to get what they wanted.  Herod, Pilate, the Jews, the Romans…all were voluntarily acting according to their desires and sinfulness and yet all this was within the divine plan of God.

Peter knows it’s true..

Acts 2:

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. [4]

We must believe these truths.  God is sovereign.  Understand, He is sovereign over every thought every person has on planet earth simultaneously and collectively.  We are held accountable for everything we do and think and yet all of it is within God’s plan.  We are not puppets on a string because all we do; we do because we want to do it.  Yet, we are working according to God’s divine plan.  His plan includes our freedom to choose.

If you doubt whether this is so, then turn to the Bible and see what it says.  Once you start looking, you’ll discover it’s everywhere.

One particular place to look is the account of Joseph.  His father Isaac loved him more than his other brothers, that was wrong even sin.  His brothers contemplated killing him but instead sold him as a slave, than was sin.  Those who purchased him took him to Egypt, that was sin.  He was purchased by Potiphar and his wife tried to seduce Joseph, than was sin.  He’s placed in prison as an innocent man.  Through these and other events, the Bible clearly says over and over that God was with Joseph.  One day through God allowing Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph was made the King’s right hand man.  He taught the king that a great famine was coming and that the grain needed to be cared for and distributed efficiently if Egypt was to survive.  Through these and other God ordained events, Joseph’s brothers first and then his entire family came to Egypt to live and be cared for.

Genesis 50:

20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. [5]  

22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

The one thing the rest of the apostles did understand in all this was the possibility that any one of them could be the one.

We too must realize that only through the grace of God are we where we are today.  If not for God, we could be someone like Judas.  We are capable of committing horrible sins.  So, we must be on guard against temptation and sin.  Never stop fighting the battle with sin.

Judas was responsible and so are we.

Did Judas have to sin?  No.  Did Judas want to sin?  Yes.  What even makes Judas’ sin, if it’s possible, even worse was that Jesus had given him ample opportunities to repent and not commit the betrayal.  Even with Jesus’ words, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed, we see an opportunity to turn back.

Are you on guard today against sin?  Are you examining yourself in light of God’s Word?  Do you love Christ more than stuff?

Not only are we to fight against sin, but at the same time:

2.  We Must Fight for Humility

24 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.

Because the disciple tended toward self-promotion Jesus needed to give them another lesson in striving for humility.

I want us to notice the flow of this conversation.  I think we can see how the conversation begins to deteriorate quickly.

It begins by each and every one of the disciples pulling their hands back off the table wondering if they could possibly be the betrayer.  Then, trying to justify themselves, they begin discussing their good qualities as a way to prove to themselves and to the others that they are not the betrayer.

Peter, probably begins by reminding everyone that he and John were on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus.  And might I add, John and I were sent on the top secret mission by Jesus to find this very house.  John may have begun describing the reasons why he would not be the betrayer.  Each one, around the table begins to speak of their own good qualities and then they transition to the fact that if they’re doing so well and that they could not be the betrayer that they must also have a special place in the Kingdom to come.

Jesus may have been sitting there shaking His head, thinking perhaps it’s time to pick 12 more and start this all over again.  We know Jesus doesn’t do that.  We know that He sees what these twelve – Judas of course excluded, would become.

So, He begins to teach some more…

We must fight for humility.  The first point our Lord makes is don’t forget we are different than the world.

He says that Kings and rulers fight among themselves to determine who is the greatest.  They invent names for themselves and declare themselves great.

For example, Caesar Augustus: titles of Augustus:
“divine” [or deified], “son of God,” “God,” “God from God.” Crossan…also stated: “He was the lord. He was the liberator. He was the redeemer. He was the savior of the world. Those are the titles of Caesar Augustus.”

Jesus’ point here is that His followers are not to strive after greatness the way the world does, instead, to fight against those natural inclinations and seek humility and servant hood.

26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

It’s at this point, John records that the Lord girded a towel and began washing the disciple’s feet.

John 13:

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. [6]

Can you imagine the contrast that Jesus makes and the potency of His point?  Right in the middle of their argument over who’s greater, the Greatest of all time, the Son of God, Himself begins to perform the act of the lowest servant.  Jesus shows what it means to care for others and to serve.  The greatest in God’s kingdom then is the one who serves, not the one who can claim the most power or give himself the most impressive title or name.

 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.

The one who serves is the greater.  Jesus shows us that He is the greatest of all.

3.  We Must Fight to Persevere

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. [7]

Jesus points out that He’s really not all that happy with their ambitions of greatness.  He corrects them and gives them an example to copy.  Then He commends them for something.  28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials,

Notice that Jesus tells His followers this, right after He has to rebuke them for arguing about who is greater.  Our Lord realizes that given the Holy Spirit and time His faithful ones will mature and be leaders.

Once again, He refocuses their attention on the coming Kingdom and not their current situation.  These apostles will Judge Israel someday.  They will share in Christ’s authority someday.

The key that Jesus identifies for their inclusion into the Kingdom is that they persevere.  It’s not their greatness or even the fact that they’ve had great ministries but what qualifies them to be included is their proximity to Jesus.  They have remained when all other have gone.  They love Jesus more than they love material goods.  They will still have a momentary lapse into denying Christ, but once Jesus is raised from the dead, everything will change for these men.  Their faith will be unshakable and their focus on greatness will be covered over with the greatness of their King.

Primary claim refocused

Christ’s followers are called to fight for humility and to resist greatness.

Jesus set the example of ultimate humility.  The Incarnation is the greatest picture of humility.  God took on flesh and lived among sinful man in order to save us.

Human condition changed or Human need met

Through this passage, we discover the vital importance of looking to eternity for our final position of greatness.  The apostles learned that in the future they would be great leaders, great leaders of the church and great leaders in the heavenly Kingdom.  We too must not seek greatness here but seek to be servants.

Exhortation in godly living

Jesus is defined by humility…

Matthew 11:

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.[8]

Moses…

Numbers 12:

Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. [9]

Humility is a foundational characteristic we must show toward God.

Luke 18:9

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [10]

A Pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous, prayed with himself, thanking God he was better than other people. Note the Pharisee’s emphasis on self, exaltation of self, and his failure to see his sins.

The Publican pleaded for mercy admitting he was a sinner. Note the conclusion in v14 – One who exalts self will be abased, one who humbles self will be exalted!Humility is the opposite of self-exaltation and self-righteousness.

A Christ like humble person will realize there is nothing good in them and that they must depend on God and submit to Him and His Word.

To be Humble is to submit to God’s Commands…

Numbers 12…Moses faithful in all of God’s House

Speaking of Jesus’ humility…

Philippians 2:

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [11]

The best way to put off pride and put on humility is to submit yourself to God and obey His commands.

James 4:

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. [12]

You might be thinking, Yeah, that sounds easy but have you ever tried it?  Every journey starts with one step.  Don’t think in terms of your whole life but think in terms of submitting to God tomorrow.  Tomorrow I’m going to place myself under God and obey His commands.

Jesus reminds us, blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.  Humility and salvation are directly linked.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 22:21–30). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 6:12–16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Eph 1:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ac 2:22–23). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ge 50:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 13:3–16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 22:21–30). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mt 11:29). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Nu 12:3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 18:9–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Php 2:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jas 4:6–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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