NOT KNOWING YOUR STRENGTH
Lord, my own strength is insufficient.
Read LUKE 22:24–38
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[a]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
a Luke 22:37 Isaiah 53:12
New International Version (NIV)
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“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23, ESV)
Jesus calls his disciples to play a key role in his kingdom and in the refounded people of God (29,30). Until now, these disciples have stood by Jesus in his trials (28), but at this critical moment they are focused on the wrong thing. They don’t know their own lack of strength, or the spiritual battle they are to face. It is the second time they have argued about who would be the greatest (See Luke 9:46) – Jesus’ words about the kingdom being fulfilled seem to have reawakened their personal ambition. Jesus, however, is “one who serves” (27). Ultimately, the cross will teach them that service equals greatness in the kingdom of God. The kingdom will be fulfilled when the servant of the Lord gives his life. Jesus anticipates this suffering as he quotes Isaiah 53:12 (37).
When Jesus sent the disciples out without resources and they had no alternative but to trust him, they had lacked nothing. This time, Peter is sure he has the spiritual stamina to follow Jesus to the end. He has no idea about the “sifting” (31) they are about to face – but Jesus sees beyond Peter’s future denials to his future ministry.
The disciples’ personal aspirations and self-delusions are recorded for our benefit. We also can expect a sifting, as our motives get tested. We also can mistakenly convert previous experiences of God’s faithfulness into trust in our own strength. However, like Peter, we can also expect restoration and further fruitful discipleship. It is after and in spite of their debates about greatness that Jesus confers on them a kingdom (see 29). When we learn again that our own resources are not enough (36), God’s grace and faithfulness remain. The cross is as much for failed disciples as repentant sinners.
Why do we never learn? What are our recurring failures in discipleship? How can we draw on God’s grace for lasting transformation rather than repeated forgiveness?
Lord, Your people pray that You keep the wicked one from sifting us like wheat.