“Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest” (Luke 22:24).
This may be the strangest episode of all.
The disciples have gathered with the Lord in the Upper Room. In just a few hours, Jesus will be denied, betrayed, tried, beaten, scourged, humiliated, and then crucified. What do the disciples do? They start arguing about who among them is the greatest. But that’s not the worst of it.
This argument breaks out after Jesus shares the bread and the cup with his men. That’s almost unbelievable.
Or maybe not.
Holy moments only last so long. Rather than indict the apostles, I simply observe how human they are. After sharing in the sacred emblems of the body and blood of Jesus, they begin to bicker about who is the greatest among them.
This is Day 5 of Eight Days That Changed the World. The word for today is preparation because Jesus must get his men ready for what is ahead. He knows the agony he must endure on the cross, and he knows he must eventually leave his disciples and return to heaven. So he meets with them, shares the bread and the cup with them, washes their feet, commands them to love one another, and predicts Peter’s failure and the betrayal by Judas. He calls them friends and promises peace during tribulation. Then he prays for them. Finally, he leads them to Gethsemane where Peter, James and John fall asleep while he prays some more.
Two things stand out about this long day:
- Jesus remains calm as he faces the approaching storm. He has supreme confidence in his Father’s plan, so there is no worry and no fear.
- The disciples appear weak and confused. One could hardly blame them for not seeing what was to come.
Then we have the words of Jesus in John 15:5, “Without me you can do nothing.” Their bickering proved how far they still had to go as disciples. Peter’s shocking denial exposed their collective weakness. Without Jesus, they would never make it.
This story reminds me of the words of an old spiritual:
“It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer
Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord,
Standing in the need of prayer.”
We are not prepared for tomorrow until we realize how much we need Jesus today. We must learn the same lesson the disciples had to learn.
Without him we can do nothing.
Lord Jesus, forgive us for thinking we could live without you. Bring us to the place where we will gladly say, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Amen.