Tuesday, March 10, 2015

In the Night: Luke 22

In Summary:

In the night, both good and bad happen. In the history of Israel, they were delivered from Egypt in the night (Exodus 12,) thus setting up the primary celebration of the Passover as a night-time event. This was one of the most important remembrances for the people of Israel

However, night was also the time when evil things happened. Historically speaking, prior to easy lighting, most cultures avoided nighttime activities. It was impractical to have light enough at night to do anything useful.

(An interesting anthropological study would involve how night-aversion is different in cultures where the buildings aren’t as confined, like one finds in tropical cultures. I digress.)

Most of Luke 22 happens at night. The opening 13 verses summarize events that occur prior to that night, but even these are feeding into what occurs in the night of the Passover celebration.

In Focus:

Take your magnifying glass to Luke 22:24-34 and look at the disciples and their argument. What is the argument? Same old stuff: Who’s the greatest? Or, more clearly, who is the most important? It’s an argument among them regarding their own rights and privileges. I think one can look at v. 26 and see that part of the underlying issue was the cultural expectation that the younger were expected to give way to the older, by virtue of age only.

Further, Jesus goes on to highlight the Gentile practice, especially among the dominant Roman system, of expecting to be noted for using authority. In that system, the ones in power expected to be called “benefactors” or other positive terms, even as they used their situation for their own improvement. It’s not unlike the modern reference to the politicians in Washington calling themselves public “servants” when the goal is get re-elected and line their own pockets—the only “service” is to further themselves.

Jesus instructs that the disciples are not to copy this system, but to serve. He goes on to point out that the ones who thought they were strongest—ones like Peter—had only been strong because of His support. The key here is in vv. 29-30, where Jesus grants the Apostles the right to sit at His table in the Kingdom. This is the highest honor one could experience—and so, there is no need for them to chase earthly recognition and privilege.

In Practice:

Practically, this gets a little hairy. First of all, it’s easy to get into a “serving-to-lead” mentality, where we serve for a time in expectation that we will be lifted up into something greater. That motivation is seen by God, and even if we accomplish that goal, we need to realize it’s not the way to approach life. Second, there are appropriate ways in which we should honor the ones who have gone before us, and respect those who do lead. This should be freely given, though, and never sought. Third, we like our privileges. Many times, it appears that we would gladly serve as long as we still get the comfy bed at the end of the day. That’s not how it works.

I would note, however, the difference in spiritual community and employment. Your boss gets to tell you what to do. He’s the boss. She’s the commander. Whatever the case may be, there are venues in which leadership *is* positional and absolute.

How does this inform our behavior? First, we set aside our ambition. Not our desire to work and accomplish, but our ambition to be important. Our ambition for recognition. Second, we put on deliberate service. Look hard for the little tasks, the behind-the-scenes things that have to happen. Do them. Third, forget you ever did them. Your recognition is not that now people will listen. It is that it will be granted to you to sit at the table in the Kingdom.

Now, the other side is this: look for the people who are serving. Pay attention to them. Ask the opinion of the people who are quietly dependable. There is likely more wisdom in them than in many visible people.

In Nerdiness: 

We get a fun nerd discussion when it comes to the timing of the crucifixion. John indicates that Jesus is crucified while the Passover is being prepared, while Luke here suggests that the Passover meal happens the night before. What do we do with this?

A few possibilities exist. One, that there was a multi-night observance of the Passover, is certainly plausible. Another, that John tweaked a fact to make a point, seems less likely in light of the inerrancy of Scripture. I think he presents a theological biography in context, meaning some events may be shifted in order, but to muff an actual fact is beyond that scope.

In considering this, remember that some of our understanding is traditional more than Scriptural. It is clear that there was a “holy day” after the crucifixion, one that could be termed a “sabbath” without being an actual Saturday. We also know that the Jewish people counted a day as beginning at sundown. It’s possible the solution is in there, somewhere. Study up and see what you think.

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