Midweek 2 – 2022 LSB #’s 436, 419
Text – Luke 22:37
For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: “And he was numbered with the transgressors.” For what is written about me has its fulfillment.
HE WAS NUMBERED AMONG THE TRANSGRESSORS
Think with me about the meaning of this sentence: “I didn’t mean to do that!” If you say it a certain way: “I didn’t mean to do that,” or “I didn’t mean to do that,” you’re saying that your choices made something happen – but you had no intention of causing that.
But if you say, “I didn’t mean to do that,” there’s wiggle room there. Something bad happened, & you did not mean to do that – but you realize you could have stopped it from happening, or maybe worse – you really should have known better. “I didn’t mean to do that...”
Have you ever watched a car wreck happen? Some accidents are like lightning – no warning & so on. But there’s another kind of wreck, & long ago I saw one. The driver didn’t mean to do that, but he really should have known better. There was a red light up ahead: clue #1. There were cars stopped at the red light & their brake lights were showing: clue #2.
There was a speed limit: helpful hint, there. But I was driving behind a car that just kept plowing forward without slowing down, & there came a moment when I realized that I was watching a wreck happen. You know how it can feel like slow motion. I saw it coming, & so I was able to not be involved. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.
But that driver who was not paying attention & hit the brakes too late, who fishtailed sideways & smacked into the back of that other car – that driver should have known better. I can imagine him saying to the police officer & then to his insurance company, “I didn’t mean to do that.” But he did do it.
The reading for tonight, from Luke 22, reminds me of watching a wreck as it’s starting to
happen. The apostles – Jesus’ handpicked inner circle – are there with Him in the upper room. The reading gives us a sort of back & forth, forth & back between the disciples & Jesus, Jesus & the disciples. But it’s painful to watch, & in a way it is frightening.
The evil at work in the events leading up to Jesus’s passion & death ... well, the disciples are participating in that evil. They are engaged in folly, & they are arrogant, but they should have known better. Let’s spend some time in these verses & watch the spiritual car crash as it unfolds before our eyes.
“A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, & those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, & 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.’” (Luke 22:24-27 ESV)
If I can be a little bold here, the disciples might be described as ... stupid. A more biblical term would be “folly.” They are caught up in utter folly. There in the upper room, after Jesus has instituted the Lord’s Supper & predicted His betrayal, they get into an argument about which of them is the greatest. How did this happen?
It’s hard to reconstruct it, so we won’t try, & Luke doesn’t want us to. He only wants us to see the evil of their folly. And it is evil. Did they mean to do that? Did they mean it for evil? In one sense, probably not. But what about the other sense, where they really should have known better? Yes, they should have known better.
They’re arguing about who is the greatest ... while in the upper room with the One who actually is the greatest. Jesus has taught them, & He has showed them what true greatness really is. So, Jesus has to teach them – again. He tells them that they’re acting like pagans & Gentiles, like worldly power brokers & big shots. That’s the evil way of thinking about “greatness.”
In verse 26, the ESV offers Jesus’ words, “But not so with you.” And while that’s a good
translation, a literal one would be, “But YOU – not like that!” In this unexpected reign of God that Jesus has been bringing, & of which they have been a central part, status & importance are turned upside-down ... or maybe right-side-up. While Jesus is there, reclining with them at table ... He tells them that He will take the place of the one who serves them.
Did they “mean for this to happen,” for their hearts to get caught up & twisted & focused on a breathtaking folly & evil? Yes, they did because they should have known better.
Still in the upper room, we keep watching the wreck as it continues to unfold before our eyes. In verses 28-38, Jesus first comforts & then He warns His disciples – Simon Peter & then all of the others. But they reject His warning, & they shrug off the Master’s words. The only thing to call it is arrogance – pride – boastfulness. Let’s take a closer look.
Jesus begins with comfort. The apostles are Jesus’ chosen, inner circle. They’ve been with Him, & there they are, still with Him – a few more hours, at least. Jesus makes a remarkable promise about their future; He promises them a share in His kingdom, in His reign. In fact, on the last day the holy apostles will in some mysterious way participate in the judgment.
Without taking away from Jesus’ unique identity as the judge of the living & the dead, the twelve will sit on thrones as they judge the twelve tribes of Israel. That’s what Jesus says! You get a glimpse of this remarkable future promise to the twelve in Revelation 21, with the vision of the New Jerusalem on the Last Day.
When the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven, & this earth is renewed, that city will have 12 foundation stones to match the 12 gates. On the foundation stones are written ... the names of the twelve apostles. Mysteries here, to be sure, & we can’t explain everything that Jesus intends to say. But what a promise!
Why does Jesus make this promise here, now, that night, in the upper room? It’s to
strengthen & steel the apostles for what is coming, so after the promise He warns them about what is coming. To Simon Peter, Jesus speaks directly – very directly. Satan is present, Satan is active, Satan is powerful, & he is after not only Simon Peter, but all the apostles: “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to sift you (it’s plural, “all of you”), to sift you like wheat.” (Luke 22:31 ESV)
It’s going to be the hardest thing they’ve ever known. But Jesus’ prayer for Simon means that after the time of trouble, Simon will return to faith, & then he must strengthen the others. Jesus is warning him, but for now Simon rejects the warning. “I’m ready,” he says, “to go to prison, & even to die with you!” (Luke 22:33) What?
Jesus just told him that he’ll be blasted & twisted ... but that the time will come when he will turn again in faith to Jesus. But Peter says, “No. That won’t happen. I’m ready.” He says that to Jesus’ face. Did Simon Peter mean to do that evil? Yes – because he should’ve known better. He should have listened to Jesus, right there in front of him.
And Simon keeps on not listening when Jesus says, “You will deny me three times today before the rooster crows.” Peter is not listening; Peter is proud, but that night when the rooster crows, then he remembers. And his pride is gone. And he weeps bitterly.
The folly & the arrogance don’t stop. Jesus turns to the others, asking them to remember how He sent them out to minister & do miracles (in Luke 9) & how all their needs were met when they went out in His name. And they remember, “We lacked nothing, Lord.” But now it will be different, Jesus says. Evil is coming. Evil is ... present.
And the one perfect man, the one truly innocent man will be counted among transgressors. Written in Isaiah, it must come true, & it will. So Jesus says, “Be ready. Prepare yourselves. You’re going to need a sword!” Is the Lord of gentleness telling them to arm themselves? No – no He’s not. Luke’s alone is the gospel that tells us Jesus not only stops the sword swinging in Gethsemane, but Jesus then immediately heals the wounded man. He’s not telling them to arm themselves, but that’s how they take it because they’re not listening. They do not realize Jesus is warning them, trying to prepare them for how hard it is going to be.
But as Peter thought he was ready, the rest of them say, “Look! We’ve got two swords!” And the tone in Jesus’s voice when He replies? I’m just guessing, but I think it’s a sad & weary voice: “It is enough.” Enough with your boasting & your arrogance, enough with your folly. I’m trying to teach you but you are not listening.
Evil is coming & they should have known better. Their evil is in the room, with Jesus. Still, God is not allowing that time in the upper room to be wasted. It is not simply a time of misunderstanding, folly & arrogance. As we watch the wreck unfolding before our eyes, we see God’s plan unfolding as well. We see God using evil to move His design forward.
The disciples didn’t mean to do that ... but they should have known better. Thankfully, God knew better still, & He meant it all for good. Ponder this. The disciples’ folly is like a sign – a huge, unmistakable arrow – that points away from them ... & right at Jesus.
Who is the greatest among them? Who even understands what true greatness is? While they bicker & fight, only One understands. The folly is all around Him & He stands out so wise, so strong, so lowly, & so great. Jesus is among them as the one – the only one – who serves.
The disciples’ arrogance is like a piece in a puzzle. It’s not the center of the puzzle, thank the Lord. But their evil is part of it, & it fits right into the plan, right into the pattern taking shape as Jesus moves toward the fulfillment, as He says, the fulfillment of what is written about Him.
That pattern will bring the great, wise, serving, innocent Son of God into the midst of sinners, of transgressors. That is Isaiah’s prophecy: “He was numbered with the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12) And as Jesus said, it must be fulfilled in Him. When Isaiah is fulfilled, it will be like a rock that is dropped in a pool of water ... you can watch as the circles get larger & larger. “He was numbered with the transgressors” – there will be one evildoer on His right, & one on His left.
At that place called “Skull” all around Him Jesus is numbered with the transgressors – the religious leaders & soldiers mocking Him, goading Him, telling Jesus to save Himself & be the greatest. But Jesus has come not to save Himself. In God’s way Jesus will be the greatest.
Numbered with the transgressors ... the circle widens, & reaches back to the evening before. In that upper room are more transgressors with Jesus – Peter, & the other apostles. Jesus was numbered with the transgressors ... as the circle widens & reaches into the future, all the way to this evening, to this room; here are more transgressors with Jesus in our midst.
God’s own Son overcomes the evil in my life & in yours. He overcomes it by arriving in the midst of it & dying. He lets the evil win & do its worst so that it can’t do anything anymore. Jesus entrusts His spirit for a time into His Father’s hands. The Father honors His Son & raises Him from the dead.
Jesus overcomes the evil. It can’t do any more damage; it did all that it could, & Jesus still won. Risen from the dead, Jesus has authority here tonight, to forgive your evil & mine, to keep us in His care all the way to the day of His glory.
When you’re in the middle of a wreck as it’s happening, it is hard to see things coming. But sometimes God does help us see it & I see my stupidity in how I compare myself with you & thinking that somehow, I’m greater than you are.
Yes. Sometimes God helps us to see our arrogance, our pride, our thinking that we can go our own way without the mercy & strength that only Christ gives. It is difficult to see it coming but sometimes God makes that happen, & we praise Him for it. So, I invite you to ask God for that kind of honesty & humility, to ask God’s mercy to see the folly coming, to turn away from pride. In doing that, Jesus alone will receive all of the glory.
But sometimes we dive into that evil, don’t we? We judge each other. We live as though we were the masters of our own fate, the lord of our days & our schedules, our wallets & our relationships. “I didn’t mean to do that, but I did it anyway.”
When that happens, remember: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” And pray that God will take my folly & your pride & turn it into a sign, a huge, bright arrow that points us away from ourselves & points us to Jesus. He was numbered among the transgressors. He is here, among us to do good. In Jesus, God meant all of it for good.
In the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Calvary’s mournful mountain climb; there, adoring at His feet, mark that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete. “It is finished!” hear Him cry; learn from Jesus Christ to die. Amen. LSB 436:3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet