Sermon Recap — April 11, 2020

True Greatness

Chris Patton
Luke 22:24-30
April 11, 2021
Sermon Video/Audio

Luke 22:24–30

[24] A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. [25] And he <that is Jesus> 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. (ESV)

Introduction

  • As this passage begins, we find the disciples having an argument. The subject of their disagreement? Who among them was the greatest.

“We get the definite impression that this was a common topic of conversation. Some people like to talk about the weather, or sports, or politics. The disciples liked to talk about which one of them was the greatest.”- Phillip Ryken

“The sin before us is a very old one. Ambition, self-esteem, and self-conceit lie deep at the bottom of all men’s hearts, and often in the hearts where they are least suspected. Thousands fancy that they are humble, who cannot bear to see an equal more honored and favored than themselves.” – JC Ryle

  • No human being can rightly say, “I am above the sin of pride.” May God help each and every one of us to take this Word deeply to heart.
  • In this passage Jesus re-defines greatness of his disciples and for all Christians…and invites us to pursue greatness as He (not the world) defines. 

I. What true greatness is not

  • In these verses, it is clear that the disciples had a very real misconception regarding the nature of greatness in the kingdom of God.
  • Their understanding of greatness was to put it bluntly–worldly; that is, their perspective on this topic was not all that different from the world around them.
  • So part of what Jesus was trying to do in this passage, was to adjust their perspective. He was trying to help them to see that true greatness in God’s eyes is nothing like the greatness in the world’s eyes.

[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.

  • In the New Testament when reference is made to “the Gentiles”, it is usually meant in the same sense as we today use the phrase “the world.” 
  • In verse 25, Jesus was saying to his disciples essentially, ‘look you say you want to be great but when you’re thinking of greatness you’re thinking of it in all the wrong terms. You are thinking of it in the same way as the Gentiles….the same way as the world…’
  • How do the Gentile kings, who are perceived as “great”, act?  Jesus says they  exercise lordship over them…they exercise lordship over the people.
    • The NASB translates vs.25 as “the kings of the Gentiles domineer over them” 
    • And the NIV says – “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them” 
  • To “lord it over” means quite simply to use authority selfishly. It means to use authority, to use other people, to advance one’s own self-serving ends. The Gentile kings were like that Jesus said.
  • Yet Jesus also said… with no small bit of irony, these leaders, these kings were called benefactors.
  • A benefactor is someone who exists to benefit and serve others. The irony is, the Gentile leaders were anything but true benefactors.They weren’t about benefiting anyone but themselves!
  • In our passage Jesus wanted to make it abundantly clear to his disciples, to Christian leaders and indeed to all Christians…that true greatness in Christ’s Kingdom has nothing to do with any of that!
  • True greatness is not Jesus says about having a position of prominence, prestige and power and it is certainly not about leveraging that power for one’s own selfish, personal gain.

Some lessons: 

  • One lesson is this – The church of Jesus Christ is absolutely not the place for seeking after or pursuing worldly greatness.
  • The church is not the place for anyone–any church pastor or church leader or church member to seek to make a name for themselves. 
  • Another lesson – The Gentile kings viewed others as simply a means to meet their own personal wants, desires and needs. They weren’t about benefiting others. They were about benefiting themselves. But as Jesus makes it clear that’s NOT true greatness. This has huge implications for how we view all of our relationships…relationships in the family and in the church.
  • If a believer ever gets to the place where they evaluate their relationships their friendships primarily on the basis of “what am I getting out of it?…what benefit is this to me? What is in it for me? Well then how is that mindset any different from the world’s self-centered approach to relationships?
  • Of course in the church, we should  benefit at some level from others in relationship.  However, if someone’s fundamental orientation is “what am I getting?” and not “how can I serve?”…a biblical perspective on greatness is likely lacking. 
  • In all of life may God help us to not embrace a worldly definition of greatness but instead God’s definition.

II. What true greatness is

[25] And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 

Verse 26 — Here comes Jesus definition of greatness.

[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. (ESV)

  • Jesus told his disciples in verse 25 that they were not to pursue greatness as defined by the Gentiles definition, the world’s definition of greatness; instead, verse 26, they were to pursue greatness in the way He says to pursue greatness.
  • What does it in fact look like to pursue greatness in the way that our Master Jesus has called us to?
  • Well Jesus tells us…. verse 26 “let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and as the leader as one who serves.“
  • Here Jesus used the word youngest, not in a derogatory manner, but rather to point out the simple fact that those who are the youngest in age are those with the least ability to exercise authority and rule and power over others.
  • Little children have absolutely no authority over others, and here Jesus tells his disciples and all Christians that true greatness involves adopting a heart posture of that of a child. 
  • True greatness Jesus seems to be saying, involves adopting the mindset of a child, who doesn’t strut around with some kind of authority complex trying to impose his will on other people. True greatness involves adopting the humble attitude of a child who himself/herself is under authority.
  • True greatness involves adopting the humble heart posture of a little child and also the attitude and mindset of a servant

Jesus said…

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. 

  • Here we see that all who desire to be truly great in God‘s eyes… aim to serve others.  In this Jesus is our example. That very day, our Lord modeled the kind of servant leadership he was talking about by, as John records, in an act of menial service, He washed his disciples feet. 
  • Even more so, Jesus modeled the humble servant attitude he called his disciples and us to the very next day on Good Friday, by going to the cross and dying in our place for our sins. Jesus came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
  • I’m so thankful and I know you are too, that our Lord and Savior did not embrace the world’s definition of greatness. 

Application: 

  • Our relationships with one another, in the home and in the church ought to be shaped by the Cross.
  • We should live and breathe a mindset of “How can I serve? How can I sacrifice? How can I humble myself? How can I lay my life down?”

III. The reward true greatness brings

[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. (ESV)

  • By reminding them of how they had been faithful thus far to him in his ministry, it seems he was encouraging them to be faithful in the future as well.
  • And as a reward for their faithfulness, in Jesus’ heavenly kingdom , Jesus promised that his disciples would eat at his table and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel presumably for their rejection of Christ.
  • This is nothing less than a promise of future honor for the disciples.  As they walk the path of true greatness, as they are faithful to Christ, God will reward them as he will reward anyone who walks that same path.

Conclusion

  • The path of Jesus in going to the cross to die for our sins, and the path of the disciples walked after him in laying their lives down for the cause of Christ and for the sake of the gospel is the same path that God has called each and everyone of us to walk in.
  • He has called us to walk on the path of true greatness, of true servanthood, of taking up our crosses daily to follow him  and to humbly love and serve all those around us that he’s placed us in relationship with.
  • May God help us to do just that.


Questions For Discussion/Application (Care Groups):

  • Re-read the text, Luke 22:24-30. What initial observations and insights do you have from reading this text?
  • What was the worldly definition of greatness that Jesus was correcting?
  • Greatness in the world’s eyes, is very self-oriented and self-serving. In what ways can we as believers be guilty of a self-oriented mindset…in the family and in the church?
  • What does true greatness look like, in God’s eyes?
  • How did Christ model true greatness for us?
  • How can we pursue true greatness in the home? What does that look like practically?
  • How can we pursue true greatness in the church?
  • In what ways does this passage convict, inspire or encourage you?
  • Consider taking time to pray, thanking God that His Son Jesus didn’t pursue a worldly definition of greatness, but instead laid His life down for us. Pray that God would help us to follow His example, and to lay our lives down for one another in the home and in the church.

Questions For Discussion/Application (parents with younger children):

  • Re-read the text, Luke 22:24-30.
  • Explain: In these verses, it is clear that the disciples had a very real misconception regarding the nature of greatness in God’s kingdom. Their understanding of greatness was worldly; that is, their perspective on this topic was not all that different from the world around them. So part of what Jesus was trying to do in this passage, was to adjust their perspective. He was trying to help them to see that true greatness in God’s eyes is nothing like the greatness in the world’s eyes. True greatness in the world’s eyes is about becoming popular and everyone thinking you are great and others making a big deal about you! In God’s eyes, true greatness is about serving and loving other people! Jesus is our example. He was God but He humbled Himself and served us to the point of laying His life down on the Cross for us. 
  • Ask: Who is someone that people in the world think is great? Parents you can prod your kids by talking about people who are famous in the world.
  • Ask: Why do people think they are great? Parents, here you are trying to get your child to see that people often think others are great because they are famous, or having an amazing talent or skill etc…
  • Jesus said that those who are great become like servants. Matthew 23:11–12 [11] The greatest among you shall be your servant.
  • Ask: If you want to be great what does that mean you will do? Parents, here you are trying to lead your child to the understanding that if they want to be truly great they will follow Jesus’ example and seek to love and serve others.
  • Pray: Thank God that His Son Jesus didn’t pursue greatness in a worldly way, but instead laid His life down for us. Pray that God would help us to follow His example, and love and serve one another.

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