We’re going to start this new series of posts in Luke 22:21-27. This is a section of scripture that lies at the root of what’s been wrong with all “religions” from the middle of the first century to today. It’s an excellent picture of raw human nature in the very human beings that were to form a part of the foundation of the New Testament churches of God. They needed to be corrected on a few misconceptions here about leadership by the only One who knew how to straighten them out.
“But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing. (Luke 22:21-23)
In Matthew’s version of this account, we see that after He said one of them would betray Him, “each of them began to say to Him, ‘Lord, is it I?’” (Matt. 26:22). Every one of the disciples had doubts about themselves and their own loyalty to Christ. It wasn’t “just Judas.” Then, right on the heels of their own doubts about whether they themselves would be Christ’s betrayer, each of them envisioned himself as the great leader of the group.
Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)
The phrase “exercise lordship over” in Luke 22:25 is from the Greek word kurieuo (G2961), which comes from kurios (G2962). This root word is translated “Lord” in the New Testament and is equivalent to the Old Testament Hebrew YHWH. “Kurios” means owner, master, ruler, and is the word used to refer to Christ as “Lord.” The derivative kurieuo means “to be lord of.”
Let’s recap what just happened here in Luke. This is the Passover service. Christ introduced His disciples to the symbols of the New Testament Passover, told them in veiled language that He was going to die for them, and that one of them would be His betrayer. Each man asked himself, “could this be me?” and right on the heels of that, they were all arguing about who was going to “be lord” over the others after their Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed by one of them. This is human carnality at its worst! It’s hard to come to grips with, but it is a part of human nature. The desire to dominate – to be lord over – and rule other human beings is at the root of every “evil empire” that has ever been on the face of the earth. It is also at the root of every church split, scandal, and heresy that has divided the churches of God and Christianity in general during the last 2,000 years.
Now notice the contrast evidenced in the character of Jesus “the Christ of God” (as Peter called him in Luke 9:20). He says, “I am among you as the One who serves” – this is My character as a leader, this is who and what I am! and this is the type of leader I want you to be as My called out ones.
Let’s remember that Luke’s account of Christ’s last passover before His death doesn’t include all that took place that night. John 13 shows us that Christ used a very pointed type of “show and tell” activity to drive this point about service and leadership home. It was the simple act of Jesus Christ rising during the meal and girding Himself with a towel, and washing his disciple’s feet.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:3-5)
What makes this such a remarkable act is found in the phrase “the Father had given all things into His hands.” This same idea is worded differently in other passages – “power over all flesh,” “all authority in heaven and on earth,” “a name that is above every name.” Christ knew where He came from, and exactly where He was going to be after His execution, which was now only hours away.
If he were an ordinary man, and had this type of assurance from the throne of the universe, the Passover may have taken the form of a victory dance, with high fives all around, but this Being knew He had responsibilities to fulfill for those He was leaving behind.
The King of kings, and Lord of lords chose to demonstrate ‘leadership’ by washing feet. It was one of the most menial tasks of the day, but considering who was doing it, one of the most meaningful acts of all human history. This event is rehearsed each year at the beginning of the Passover service, and perhaps it gives us a greater insight into the true character of the God family than any other.
Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”
Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (John 13:6-8)
Christ’s statement to Peter was an ultimatum. “Let Me serve you, as I have been sent to do, or you can’t participate in My work.” We normally focus on foot washing as an act that reminds us of our obligation to serve others, and that is a valid point of emphasis. We should always follow the example of Christ in serving others. But there is another important lesson in this service that encourages us to be served by Jesus Christ as He performs His many duties for the churches of God today.