The Only Way Up is Down

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Luke 22.24-38 – The Only Way Up Is Down

Good morning everyone! It’s a real treat to be here with some of you in person, but I know most of you are watching from home – so “Hello” to you too.

Now, earlier on in the week I emailed our church database asking everyone to give me ONE WORD to describe – Firstly – the attitude of a Non-Christian friend or family member to them being a Christian.

• AND while it was encouraging to have a few of you reply with words like “curious” or “respectful”…
• Most of 50+ replies I got used words like: Deluded, Suspicious, Weird, Negative, Cynical, Childish, YOUR Thing – but definitely not to be shared with others!
• Which obviously was more than one word – but a few of you clearly cheated!

BUT I also asked for ONE WORD to describe what impact those kind of attitudes have on your faith in Christ?

• And while again there was the odd “encouraged”, or “proud” in there…
• Most of you responded with words beginning with “D” – Discouraged, De-motivated, Disheartened, Defensive – as well as Sad, Confused, Frustrated and Awkward.
• AND again some of you used a few extra words to say: “Like I can’t really talk about it”. OR “It makes me start to wonder: Is this real? Is this just me? None of my friends believe this?!”

Well, as we dive back into Luke’s gospel this morning – I want you to know that Luke starts his account of Jesus life by saying that he has gathered information, spoken to eyewitnesses, and is writing an orderly account for a bloke called Theophilus– Luke 1 verse 4: “...so that… you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

The first generation of Christians were beginning to be arrested and thrown in prison– and even killed for following Christ. And it sounds like Theophilus was kind of wobbling in his faith.

• Maybe he had been to a Carol service and heard what the angels said to the shepherds when Jesus was born: “Good News! Of great joy! For all people!”

• And Theophilus was thinking: “Are you sure about that? I mean if it’s such good news, why are those who are proclaiming it… getting locked up?”

And Luke wants Theophilus, and the rest of his readers – therefore us – to know certainty...

• So that we don’t give up.
• So that we don’t doubt, or get disheartened or discouraged in our faith.
• So that we don’t privatise it and just keep it to ourselves.

So friends, if you’re finding it hard to stand for Jesus today – cos of what the people you care about think of you – and what the world out there says – this gospel is great medicine for us.

AND especially so in this passage from Luke 22 that we’re going to look at this morning –As the first thing we’re to see here is that...

1. To Stand By Jesus Means... Being A Servant Like Jesus

It is the night before Jesus is to be crucified – AND he is sitting at table with his disciples having just shared a highly emotional meal which visualises what his impending death will accomplish for them.

AND then we read in verse 24 “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.”

Folks, I don’t know about you, but I have come to expect my children to bicker about who is the best at the dinner table from time to time – BUT:

• These are grown adults!
• Who Jesus has just told that he’s about to suffer and die for – his body given for them, his blood poured out for them…
• AND all they can do is think about themselves.

And while we might think: “How could they?!” – BUT it’s not just them is it?

I think a lot of us reckon that we are pretty humble people – BUT when someone suggests we might be about to fail – or has happened with Jesus disciples – that we might betray someone we love – Don’t we bristle at that suggestions. “There’s no Way I would do that! I’m better than that!”

OR when someone else gets an opportunity we haven’t had we think: “Why them? I’m every bit as good as they are!”

OR perhaps we serve in some way – and no one thanks us. Now don’t mishear me! It is really important we thank people for the way they serve us!

BUT when we do things because we’re looking for thanks, we’re looking for recognition – then we’re doing exactly what the disciples were doing here. We’re making it all about ourselves. AND about people noticing us!

And Jesus cuts right into that way of thinking in verse 25– as: “…he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.”

We live in a culture that is full of people who have a very keen sense of their own importance. In our world:

• Greatness… is given in a title.
• Greatness involves exercising power.
• Greatness means being highly thought of.

AND Jesus says: “But not so with you – NOT so with YOU! – Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 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.”

It’s that time of year when the Oscars would usually happen. And after the ceremony there is always a big slap-up meal at which the Kate Blanchetts, Matt Damons, Scarlett Johanssons and Leonardo Di Caprios of the world eat smoked salmon, truffles and caviar.

I’ve never had it but I’m not sure what the fuss is all about with caviar. I mean who wants to eat fish eggs?

BUT who is greater? The people at the table sitting down to their caviar... OR the waiters and waitresses?

It’s the people at the table, isn’t it?

But here is Jesus – the greatest one of all…

• The one by whom the world was made,
• The one before whom all angels bow,
• The one whom the Bible says “sits on the throne of the universe”,
• AND he says: “I am among you as... Leonardo Di Caprio?”

No! “I’m here as a waiter. I’m not here for you to meet my needs – I’m here to meet yours.”

Jesus’ kingdom is an “others-first” kingdom – because we have an “others first” King.

I wonder where you need to follow his lead this week and say: “I among you as one who serves”?

We don’t get many opportunities to be “among” others at the moment, do we?! BUT how would saying: “I among you as one who serves” effect how we go on a Teams or Zoom call for:

• A work meeting?
• OR with our extended families?
• OR our Midweek group?
• OR for a prayer meeting?

In those latter cases, maybe thinking “others” might be what we need to do – to help us see why it’s so important to get on those Zoom calls in the first place?!

Wherever we meet, however we meet – we are to enter the room like Jesus would, thinking: “Who can I serve? How can I encourage and build others up?”

AND the same goes for entering our houses, or even turning up at the dinner table. I remember Fiona challenging me about this a few years ago when I had to fight my way through a lot more traffic than I do now to get home and I kept arriving home with my head still buzzing and somewhere elsewhere.

And so I started using my time in the car on the way home to offload the things of the day to the Lord, and asking him to help me give myself fully to the needs of Fiona and the kids.

Oh the difference it made! Walking in for tea seeking to be a blessing, rather than a burden. To go in thinking: “I am among you as one who serves.”

Folks, to stand for Jesus – means being a servant like Jesus.

AND, secondly…

2. To Stand by Jesus... Means Being an Outcast Like Jesus

Jesus doesn’t pretend for a minute that going his way, living with an “others first” attitude will be easy. AND so he prepares his disciples –and us also – for the battle that lies ahead.

Firstly, by warning us to expect:

i. Supernatural Hostility

As in verse 31 Jesus says: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat...”

Now, he’s talking to Simon, but if you have a Bible open in front of you’ll be able to see in the footnotes that the “you” there –– is actually plural. So he is talking to all of them – saying: “You need to know that Satan has asked to put all of you through the mill. He wants to crush you.”

Here’s a question for you: Do you believe in the devil? I think we kind of laugh at that idea these days, don’t we?

BUT the Bible tell us he is not the kind of cheeky cartoon character our culture makes him out to be. He is like:

• A devious, sneaky serpent;
• A vicious, roaring lion;
• A monstrous dragon – who you can’t reason with and who takes no prisoners.

I wonder if as Christians we have the least idea of the battle we’re in. I suspect not. Not really.

You see when we wobble, we sometime think: “Why does life seem so unreasonable, so unfair? Why is it easier to doubt Jesus than to stand for him?”

Answer – Ephesians 6v.12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Folks, reckon on the battle. Jesus wants us to know – to warn us – that there is a devil – who will stop at nothing – literally nothing – to keep you from trusting in and living for him.

AND like Simon Peter and the disciples we will be vulnerable to Satan’s attacks, not only because of his hostility – BUT also because the world around us will be hostile too.

ii. Human Hostility

Look at verse 35: “And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no money bag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.”

Twice previously in Luke’s gospel Jesus sent them out into the world – and they had generally speaking received a pretty positive reception. So they hadn’t needed anything.

“But now...” he says in verse 36 – “Things are very different. Now you’ll need to be ready for anything.”

Not literally! Jesus was not suggesting his disciples arm themselves – as later that evening when one of them drew a sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest – and Jesus responded by saying: “No more of this!” and healed the unfortunate fellow.

Which is why many commentators suggest that when Jesus says: “It is enough” here in verse 38 – he is not commenting on the sufficiency of the two swords his disciples manage to dig out – he is saying: “Enough of that! Don’t be so daft!”

No! Jesus is not saying we should take up arms. He’s saying: “Now there will be hostility. Even hatred. And you need to be ready for that.”

Why? What has changed?

Well Jesus is about to show himself to be NOT the kind of Messiah people wanted.

Verse 37: “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’”

Transgressors are those who cross the line of the law, and therefore threaten our whole way of life. And that is how Jesus will be treated.

The world will say, “He was a dangerous man – who claimed to be some kind of a King – AND set himself up against the authorities and all that we stood for. So we nailed him to a cross to show everyone what a deluded fool he was.”

And Jesus is saying – if you stand with him – the world’s verdict on you will be just the same as it was on him.

And don’t we know it! Though some are quite accepting of our faith – increasingly more and more people say that Christianity is a dangerous and deluded idea that is a threat to British values. AND that we are the bad guys… even as we try to love and serve others!

Many of us feel the bite of that – BUT we shouldn’t be surprised by it. Jesus warned us – To Stand By Him... Means Being An Outcast Like Him.

Well thanks a bunch Ken! That has really ruined our whole Sunday. I thought this was going to be good medicine for our discouraged hearts?!

Well folks – please, please, please don’t miss what Jesus says to Simon Peter in verse 31: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you…”

Do you note that Satan has to ask?! He demands to sift them as wheat. What does that mean? That there is somebody greater. There is somebody he has to go to cap in hand to seek allowance.

• He is not the master.
• God is God – and he still reigns.
• Jesus is king.
• And Satan has to ask.

Then look in verse 32– Jesus says: “…but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”

He doesn’t pray to the Father to exempt Simon Peter – “Take him out of this attack.” No, he prays: “Keep Simon’s faith.”

What do we pray… for other people? I think we find it easier to pray for almost anything other than for faith. BUT that’s what we should be praying for!

• That’s what we need to pray for each other.
• For the older people in our congregation – to stay firm in faith to the end!
• AND for our children! We need to be pray most of all for them – that despite all the opposition, and hostility and evil that they face in our world – that their faith WILL NOT FAIL.

And then, even in advance of Peter’s failure – Jesus again in verse 32 says: “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus is so patient. He is not writing Simon Peter off because he knows he will fail. He has a purpose for his future usefulness that he cannot yet fully understand. And so this is the man who on the day of Pentecost speaks with such power that 3,000 people will put their faith in Jesus on that day.

Folks, imagine Jesus came round to your house this afternoon and sat with you over a cuppa at your kitchen table and said: “I know you worry about what people think about you. And I know you fear the future. I know how weak and fragile your faith sometimes is. BUT I need you to know – Satan and the world have no real power over your life. AND I’m praying for you – Hebrews 7 verse 25 – I’m praying for you all the time! AND I can and I will go on restoring and powerfully using you even when you fail.”

Doesn’t that strengthen you for the battle? Don’t miss it like Peter does! And say, “Oh no, thanks Jesus, but I’ve got this! I can do it myself!”

AND don’t miss verse 28 either! As Jesus says to those who are – remember – squabbling over greatness, determined to be well thought of by their peers – who are not worthy of what he is about to do for them – he says: “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you… a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

AND the Bible makes it clear that is a promise to us too.

AND so see Jesus take another sip from his coffee cup as he looks you in the eye and says: “Hold fast my child. I want you in heaven – eating and drinking at my table, reigning with me, forever.”

After all, why was Jesus “numbered with the transgressors”? Why was HE rejected? AND treated like a sinner?

FOR US! For our sins… so we could be forgiven. So we could stand with him and stay faithful to the end – and be with him in glory.

I heard a story recently of a young girl whose mother’s hands were terribly disfigured and scared. And children being children, her friends would mock her for her mother’s hands – and so she was rather embarrassed by them.

Until one day, when she was a little older, she asked her mum: “Why are your hands like that. What happened?”

And her mother told her the story: Of how when she was small there had a been a fire in their home and the daughter’s jacket had caught light – and it was with her bare hands that she had put the fire out, and saved her daughter’s life.

And her daughter looked again at her mother’s hands… and took hold of them… and kissed them.

The hands that she had been so embarrassed by – all of a sudden seemed beautiful to her. For they were a sign of how much her mother loved her.

And brothers and sisters, we may be mocked for following Jesus – and be unsettled and tempted to doubt and be ashamed. BUT when you get why he was numbered with the transgressors, doesn’t that make you love him?

The Kingdom of this world is a Kingdom of dog eat dog, where people Lord it over one another. Where it’s me first. And it will end in dust.

BUT if you stand with this King – he calls you into his wonderful kingdom, where there’s no more death. And tears will be wiped dry. And he says we will laugh and shout with joy – because we will be with him. It will be wonderful!

Which is why Jesus says: “Whatever happens... stand firm. Stand firm.”

Let’s take a moment to respond to God’s word in silent prayer. AND then we’ll have our closing song.

SILENCE

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