Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Sermon: Wittenberg Academy – Tuesday after Pentecost, 2024

21 May 2024

Text: Luke 22:24-46

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

As our Lord is only hours away from the beginning of His passion, He is now surrounded with only the eleven who will be ordained to spread the Good News to the world.  Instead of being a time of beautiful goodbyes to His faithful disciples who will indeed go on to preach the gospel and change the world, we see them at their very worst.

Even as our Lord knows what is about to happen over the next few hours, the disciples are bickering like children over “which of them is to be regarded as the greatest.”  And even at this late hour, Jesus does not lash out in frustration with His hapless students, but gently corrects them.  For in the kingdom, the “leader” is “the one who serves.”  And even now, Jesus is still teaching them that they will indeed “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

And even Simon Peter, the one they do regard as their leader, who will deny Jesus three times, receives a rebuke that is so gentle that it might be easy for us to miss: “Simon, Simon… when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Jesus is telling Peter that he will fall away and will need to re-convert.  And even as Peter protests his self-perceived bravery, Jesus tells him what he will actually do when it becomes difficult.

And when our Lord is “in agony” and as He sweats blood as a preliminary to the blood He will shed on the cross, the disciples are “sleeping for sorrow.”  This is only moments before Judas will lead an armed crowd coming to arrest Jesus, sending the eleven running away after a pathetic bit of symbolic bravado and swordplay.  This is hardly the stuff of gallantry and bravery of heroes.  This is hardly a narrative of men who will indeed change the world.  And yet, these apostles are heroes, and they will suffer for the sake of the kingdom, and will indeed judge the twelve tribes from heavenly thrones.

We too are the Lord’s disciples.  We are hapless students.  We talk bravely and live differently.  We think of ourselves one way, but act in a different way when it becomes difficult.  And yet, Jesus rebukes us gently, and calls us back to greatness in the kingdom – which is to service.  Our Lord, the one who is genuinely the greatest, serves us at the table with forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Like the eleven, we receive the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be His body, the church, in spite of our individual foibles.  Jesus calls us to repent and serve the kingdom bravely as Peter will do.  Indeed, the kingdom is not about the subjects who serve the King, but about the King whom they serve.

And at the same time, our Lord says, “I am among you as the one who serves.”  For He is a different kind of King, and the church is a kingdom like no other.  For in this kingdom, we enjoy forgiveness of our foibles – and even of our grave sins – and we are heroic only by grace.  We are not a superpower in the eyes of the world.  And even our King is typically depicted serving us from the cross.  For as John would later write: “this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).

For as our Lord told St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).  And as He says to these eleven – who have no military might, but are rather armed with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit: “It is enough.” 


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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