What Did You Expect?
January 28, 2024 | Peter Rowan
Passage: Luke 22:24-38
Still in the upper room, having just transformed the great salvation meal of Passover around his own work of salvation through his broken body and shed blood, Jesus now has to deal with some misconception of the Christian life with his disciples. You could say these are parting words, last words to accompany his last supper. The disciples began to argue over who will be greatest in the Kingdom of God and Jesus says you must become like a servant. He then says the Christian life will be a life of faith. Finally it will be a life of trials and adversaries. None of this should surprise them or us, given that the Christian life is the life of following the way of Jesus, but it sure isn't what we so often expect or hope for.
I saw a Buzzfeed article on my newsfeed this week. And I know, I know, you are right in what you are thinking right now. I should not have clicked on any Buzzfeed article because they are worthless. You are right, but I was intrigued by the title which read “I asked AI what Europeans think Americans from Every Single State Look Like, and the Results are Just Plain Mean.”
The image of the guy from Arkansas kind of looked like a hobo, wild ratty hair, an unbuttoned flannel and a mangy beard.
The girl from California had cool sunglasses, wonderfully wavy hair, a little dog under her arm and two cups of coffee, surrounded by palm trees.
The guys from Colorado was scaling a mountain. Large backback on, decked out in cool hiking gear, unshaven with about a weeks stubble, balding but with long wild hair.
Georgia was man sitting atop a wooden ladder in an abundant peach grove.
New Jersey was a bald guy of clearly Italian descent eating a huge pile of spaghetti with his hands that has also spilled all over his tee shirt.
Washington, where I am from, was a 60 year old man with a bucket hat and a rain jacket in a huge puddle of rain.
And, since we all really do want to know, Pennsylvania was young, rather plump boy with an enormous chocolate bar that had also been smeared around his face.
I don’t know what you expected when I told you the title, but the title did read that “the results are just plain mean,” and for the most part I thought that the images were kind of what I expected and kind of not. A huge chocolate bar for Pennsylvania and a man in a puddle in a rain coat for Washington? There may be a lot more to say, but it’s not totally off.
Now, let me ask you a couple questions before we really consider this text together.
1.If you are a Christian, what did you expect the Christian life to be like?
Did you look at your friends who were Christians and think, you know, if I go to church and all maybe my marriage will have no difficulties, maybe my kids will behave, maybe I will just amazing health and no car payments and all the rest. So, you gave your life to Jesus.
- If you are not a Christian, what do you expect Christians to be like?
Maybe you thought they would be kind and inviting. Maybe you thought they looked just like you and thought just like you, or maybe just the opposite. Maybe they look just like President Biden or maybe they look just like former President Trump.
I read this week in Christianity today that the latest Gallup poll found that fewer than 1/3rd of Americans rate clergy as highly honest and ethical! fewer than 1/3! The article stated that “People are more likely to believe in the moral standards held by nurses, police officers, and chiropractors than their religious leaders.” It may come as no surprise that the next sentence says this, “Clergy are still more trusted than politicians, lawyers, and journalists” Interestingly, the ratings were about the same across political parties. Generationally, Gen-X and older Millenials (basically me and ten years on either side of me) are the most cynical about pastors and older and younger Americans are the most favorable.
The basic thought behind this decline is the prevalence of pastors on social media that either look like they have it together or are decked out in Louis Vuitton and Off White coupled with an unbelievable amount of pastoral leadership abuses coming out every week. Just this week a pastor admitted to a cryptocurrency scheme in his church where he and his wife illegally pocketed some 1.3 million and he told them that the Lord told him to do this!
What do we expect Christians to be like?
Holy people or hustlers? Pawns of politicians or people who practice the way of Jesus?
Well in our passage this morning, what we see is that even these disciples who had been with Jesus for three years tend to get it wrong. They had journey with him, likely heard him taught hundreds of times, watch him heal and raise the dead. This is his crew, this is his squad, and they don’t get it. Should we be at all surprised that maybe we don’t get, that maybe following Jesus is not what we expected? Well, so here, right before Jesus’ death he teaches these disciples a little about what it is going to be like to follow him. Let’s take a look:
So, a number of times in the book of Luke Jesus has predicted his death and when he has done so sometimes he has also connected it to the life of his disciples, those of us who want to follow Jesus. Listen to Luke 9:22-24.
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
So we just last week read about Jesus celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples and how he took this mean that remembered how a perfect spotless lamb would die in the place of others so that the people of God might receive the salvation of God and Jesus said I’m giving you a better story but the one who is going to have their body broken and blood shed is me!!!
And then you know what? You know what come nexts? We read this: 24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
If there is something that should commend to your serious consideration the truth of the Gospels and actually of the whole Bible is that it never paints a very rosy picture of the very peopel that wrote it!! But here is the thing, the disciples were taken over by the very same things that plague us! The disciples were in love and desired much of the same things that we are in love with and we desire. Power. Status. People looking up to us. Who is better than who. Who thinks better. Who does better. Who votes better. Status. Power. Prestige. Who’s the greatest?!
And really, think about this, what is all of the abuse about in the church? It is so often about one person taking advantage of a power dynamic to the determent of another. What is all of the fuss about on the Preachers-m-sneakers Instagram account? It is about pastors using their position not flaunt their wealth!
Jesus says that your idea of success in the Kingdom of God is going to have to be an upside-down success. It is not true, Jesus is saying, that he who dies with the most toys wins or he who dies with the biggest bank account wins or who who dies with the most followers on X (formally known as twitter) wins, but rather it is he who dies to himself and lives for others wins. Or, as one of Bruce Weatherly’s old bumper stickers said, “He who dies the most before he dies wins.”
Or, as Jesus tells us here in verse 26, “let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”
Now, Jesus does tell us in this first little passage that they will receive the Kingdom and in fact, he says they will be those who judge the twelve tribes. And, this gets into some theological nuances, but if you were a Jewish person to be a judge meant more to lead and the twelve tribes was a phrase for the people of God. There were twelve disciples just like their were twelve tribes because Jesus was reformed the people of God around him and his work, just like he reshaped the Passover around his death and the salvation that came through it. So, yes, their will judge the tribes, but that means they will lead the church and how they lead the church was by dying to themselves and living for others. In fact, though some of the accounts are not absolutely certain, nearly all of the disciples died a martyrs death.
So Jesus is teaching us what it will be like to follow him and he says it will mean an upside-down view of success.
Let me read again this whole second section of our passage from Luke:
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Here’s the fact, living by faith in someone you cannot see of touch or hear is very very difficult. The Christian is not an easy wide road. It is not. It is not easy to live an hour or a day or a week or a month or a year or certainly a lifetime given over to only following Jesus. The fact is that most of us vastly overestimate ourselves and our faith, just like Peter here. And just like Peter’s story that Jesus foretells here, we often have to learn the very hard way and we need to be restored just like Peter.
If you read through the gospels what you learn is that Peter was one of Jesus close friends. He clearly loved Jesus. He confessed Jesus. In John 6 he says, “Lord, where should we go, you alone have the words of eternal life.” And elsewhere he says, “Lord, depart from me, I’m a sinful man.” I mean, it may be tempting to throw under the bus when he denies Jesus three times before the rooster crows, but Jesus tells just that we should expect a faltering faith. Faith is hard. Following Jesus is not easy. And there will be times and I have no doubt that most of you have had these times where you have no confessed him and have not lived for him. And I have no doubt that each one of us needs to come and to hear again our Lord’s forgiving words to us.
Expect a faltering faith. Expect a faith that sometimes is strong and sometimes feels so weak.
Finally look at the last paragraph there that starts in Luke 22:35
Jesus tell them, “Hey remember back in Galilee when I sent you out as twelve and then as seventy-two to preach and heal the sick? Remember how I just told you to rely on the hospitality of others and you were able to? Do you remember how you came back so excited about how people received you? Yeah, that was nice, but that’s not going to be the norm.”
You know, one of the themes that we have in the Bible that can be somewhat off-putting is the images of the Christian life as one of war, as one of conflict. The Christian life is sometimes described as a fight. And, let’s face it, blood and sweat and tears are not really images that attract people.
Jesus says these words in John 15:
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
Sign me up!
“But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’
What? Buy a sword?
They respond: 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Now, this is kind of a debated passage here. In fact, in A.D. 1302 the Pope Boniface VIII, in his papal bull Unam Sanctam, one of the most historically significant of all papal deliverances, based his doctrine of the double power of the church — both civil and spiritual — on this statement about the disciples offering Jesus two swords.
Are Christians supposed to load themselves down with armor? Is the church supposed to yield the sword? Well, given that in this very chapter Peter cuts the ear off of someone and Jesus tells him,” No more of this!” I think the better take is that Jesus is just simply telling them to be expecting adversaries. And when he responds to their “Look we, have two swords” with “It is enough,” it is as though he is saying “forget about it.”
But here is our point, if you are going to follow Jesus you will not always be welcomed with warm arms, a hot meal and a listening ear. You will not. The fact is that countless Christians have died confessing Jesus because they were not received. Expect attendant adversaries. Expect others to disagree with you and to dislike you precisely because you are a Christian. Not because you are an disgruntled Christian, not because you are a mean Christian, not because you are a self-righteous Christian (there are plenty of good reasons at times that you may have adversaries), but you should expect adversaries because you are a faithful Christian.
Let me get back to my original questions.
What do you expect the Christian life to be like?
Has the Christian life met your expectations? I mean, the Colorado hiking is who we all expect.
Jesus tells us to expect an upside-down success, he tells us to expect faltering faith, he tells us to expect adversaries.
But what else would we expect?
I mean, Jesus taught us that the way to life is through death, that it is giving that we receive. Topsy-turvy success.
Next week we will see that Jesus himself was in agony at the thought of his death and angels strengthened him and he said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And we will see his disciples asleep. Faltering faith. Faith is hard.
And Jesus was lead to a cross. People plotting against him. Religious leaders dragging him to the political leaders who dress him up and mock him. He’s led to a cross and he dies while people mock him. Adversaries all around.
What do you expect? What do you expect the Christian life will be like. To be a Christian is to follow Christ.
I want you to take a moment and just ask yourself what you expected following Jesus would be like and then also ask yourself how your life follows the way of Jesus.
The Gospel of Luke is best described by its author in the first four verses of the book: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."