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Dr. Rodney Plunket

Called to Serve
Luke 22:24-27

Many of us will remember the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert. What I had not noticed until this week is that only the Gospel of Luke says, "When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time" (Lk 4:13). I think Luke’s Gospel also reveals when the "opportune time" came; I think the events of that "opportune time" are reported in Lk 22.

In Luke 22 the devil is called Satan, but again he is attacking Jesus, and Joseph Fitzmyer in his commentary on Luke says, "Luke introduces [Satan] now in an allusion to 4:13 where he was called "the devil" . . . , who having put Jesus to the test ‘departed from him for a while’" (The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV, p 1374). If you have your Bible please turn to Lk 22:1-3 and follow along as I read this section which reports the further efforts of Satan to conquer Jesus.

Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.

This is how Satan began to use his opportune time. Now see what the satanically influenced Judas does. Please follow along again as I read vv 4-6. From those

verses we learn that

[Judas] went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

What we need to realize is that those who opposed Jesus needed a time to arrest Him when the adoring crowds were not present. To have a better understanding of why the crowds were such a problem we need to go back to the conclusion of the previous chapter. Please look with me at Lk 21:37-38.

"Every day [Jesus] was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.

These verses reveal why it was so difficult to arrest Jesus. People surrounded Him from early in the morning. So the Jewish leaders needed to be able to find Jesus during a time and at a place when they could arrest Him away from the crowds. The role of Judas was to supply them with that time and that place.

This desire of the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus and their need for an opportune time supplied Satan with His opportune time. Satan took hold of it by entering into Judas.

But that is not all Satan did to oppose Jesus at this time. Please look with me at Lk 22:31-34. There Jesus says,

Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

Notice that Jesus makes clear that Satan is demanding "to sift" not just Simon Peter, but all of Jesus’ apostles. Simon Peter replies to Jesus’ words and says, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!" Jesus then responds by saying, "I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me." So Satan is not just working inside of Judas; Satan is also working on Jesus’ other apostles. And Jesus knows that Satan will have enough success to cause Simon Peter to deny three times that he even knows Jesus.

Feel how aggressively Satan is working. You can almost see spiritual darkness descending upon Jesus and His closest followers.

But Lk 22 also reveals that not long before Satan’s plans all come together, Jesus eats the Passover meal with the twelve disciples. He uses the bread and the wine of this meal to inaugurate the Lord’s Supper. At the close of that meal, Jesus makes clear that He knows that the person who will betray Him is actually eating with Him. In Lk 22:21 Jesus says, "But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table." The disciples respond to these words from Jesus by asking "one another, which one of them it could be who would do this" (Lk 22:23).

Now we come to Lk 22:24-27, the passage previously read as our Scripture Reading this morning. In v 24 we learn that the disciples turned from trying to identify the betrayer among them to arguing about who would be the greatest among them. Fitzmyer notes that the disciples’ move here is fairly natural. They simply moved from talking about who is the betrayer, the lowest to which a disciple could sink, to talking about who is the greatest (Ibid, p 1412). Realizing that Lk 9:46ff reports an earlier argument among the disciples concerning who was the greatest, it is easy to imagine a disciple saying on this occasion, "not only am I not the betrayer, I am the foremost/the greatest disciple." Such a statement would easily ignite an argument among persons who longed to be preeminent as these twelve clearly did.

Jesus amazes me here. Satan is at work, and Jesus knows it. A betrayer from among His closest followers is about to facilitate the effort to have Jesus executed. In the midst of all of this, Jesus’ disciples again argue about who is the greatest. When they had that argument in the past, Lk 9:47-48 tells us that Jesus

took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, "Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest."

"[T]he least among all of you is the greatest."

Here Jesus is in the midst of a satanic attack and the disciples clearly reveal that they have not learned a lesson Jesus had already taught. They still do not understand Jesus’ standard of greatness.

What amazes me is that Jesus does not despair. He does not even seem to become angry. In the midst of it all, Jesus teaches. He teaches that the calling He issues to a disciple is a calling to service. Hear again His words,

The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Sisters and brothers, in Jesus’ darkest time He still directed His followers to serve. Under satanic attack and knowing that a betrayal and three denials will soon issue from within His closest circle of friends, Jesus still points to service.

Broadway’s theme for 1999 has been "Answering God’s Call." We have done a variety of things to encourage our members to pursue and embrace God’s calling for their lives. We believe that God has a calling for each one of us. But let me very clear about one thing. Every individual Christian’s calling has to do with service. We have all received that calling. We are all to use our Spirit-endowed gifts to serve others. As Jesus served His disciples at the table that day so long ago, so we are to serve. We are not to be like the kings of the Gentiles. We are to be like the King of kings.

Mike Kennedy distributed some articles to the staff recently from a magazine called faithworks. One of the articles was entitled "The Risk of Faith." It talked about the attitude of many American Christians gets in the way of them identifying with the poor and serving the poor. The article said, "many Christians have trouble identifying with the poor, . . . , because they equate suffering with failure" (July/August 1999, p 18). But this article points out that poor Christians from around the world actually feel sorry for the rich Christians of America. Listen to this report from that article.

Tedesa, a single woman in Ethiopia who became a Christian, calmly recited her story––the loss of her job, her family’s rejection, her social isolation––to American missionaries Paul and Hannah Gay. "I feel sorry for American Christians," she concluded. "I feel sorry for them because they have never had the privilege of having to depend on Jesus for everything" (Ibid).

Funny, isn’t it? We feel sorry for the poor, but poor Christians feel sorry for us because of the impedance to faith that our wealth is. How should we respond to all of this? We should serve. We should use our wealth to serve, just as Jesus used His lordship to do the same.

Let me look again to the article in faithworks. It concludes with a statement from the Christian author, Gary Haugen. He says that we should "[t]ake the good things we’ve been given and use them to stand with those in need" (Ibid).

Our wealth can stand in the way of having a faith that risks, that sacrifices, that serves. But we have been called to risk it all for Jesus. We have been called to sacrifice for our Lord. We have all been called to serve.

This morning we have a special opportunity to serve, to risk, to sacrifice. This morning is OctoberFast Sunday here at Broadway. We have asked all of our members to give at least the amount it cost us to eat one meal this week. All that is given will go the Second Helpings Program of the South Plains Food Bank. That Second Helpings Program is the one that supplies food to our own Carpenter’s Kitchen and other soup kitchens for the hungry in our city. And Carpenter’s Kitchen is the program out of which grew Broadway’s Carpenter’s church which is changing the lives of many in our city.

Jim Beck’s presentation concerning the work of Carpenter’s church last week was so powerful. Through his words we saw the power of God moving among prostitutes, drug addicts, alcoholics, and other desperately needy people. God used Carpenter’s kitchen to give birth to that program that reaches out so effectively to the neediest people in our city, and God still uses Carpenter’s kitchen to grow that work. Please give generously for the support of the Second Helpings Program. Adam is going to lead us in a song as we give to the work of feeding the hungry in Lubbock; but before we receive that offering and before we sing, please bow with me for a prayer.

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