Prologue | Table of Contents | Chapter 2

We tend to characterize chapters and verses of the Bible by emphasis. We call Hebrews 11 the faith chapter and I Corinthians 13, the love chapter. In our view, Luke 22 and John 13 should be called the "authority chapters," though those who teach authority today rarely refer to them. Instead they draw on the teachings of the old covenant. After you read these passages you might wonder what they have to do with authority. The reason we miss it here is that we are still viewing authority as the world views it. The word authority appears only once in these chapters and that in a negative sense. Nevertheless, the foundation of kingdom authority is established and demonstrated throughout. These chapters record the events in the upper room leading up to Jesus' proclamation to his disciples, "I confer on you a kingdom."

Jesus Washing Feet

Reason would argue that this must imply that certain ones in the Church are given authority to rule over the congregation. So goes the natural logic. But if Christ's kingdom is not of this world's paradigm, which serves as a model for virtually every mental construct of authority, what is His kingdom of, after or according to? What is the nature of the Kingdom that Jesus gave to the twelve? To understand this we must take Christ's words, "I confer on you a kingdom," in context. These words do not stand alone. Recounting the events leading up to this statement is crucial to our understanding of it. We must go to the upper room with Jesus and His disciples and watch the events that led to this proclamation. There we will discover that this kingdom edict was spoken in answer to an argument that erupted among the disciples while they reclined at table.

To get an expanded view of what took place there in the upper room, we will harmonize the accounts of Luke and John. It is important that you read them in their entirety to get perspective.

Luke begins:

When the hour had come, he sat down with the twelve apostles. He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will no longer by any means eat of it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God." He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, "Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes." He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me." Likewise, he took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it has been determined, but woe to that man through whom he is betrayed!" They began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing. There arose also a contention among them, which of them was considered to be greatest.
He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so with you. But one who is the greater among you, let him become as the younger, and one who is governing, as one who serves. For who is greater, one who sits at the table, or one who serves? Isn't it he who sits at the table? But I am in the midst of you as one who serves. But you are those who have continued with me in my trials. I confer on you a kingdom, even as my Father conferred on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom. You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:14-30 WEB).

It is important to note that many believe that the gospel of John, which was written much later than the others, was written to include things that were left out of the other gospel narratives. Filling in the gaps, John wrote:

Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that his time had come that he would depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
After supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and was going to God, arose from supper, and laid aside his outer garments. He took a towel, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. Then he came to Simon Peter. He said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" Jesus answered him, "You don't know what I am doing now, but you will understand later." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I don't wash you, you have no part with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "Someone who has bathed only needs to have his feet washed, but is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you." For he knew him who would betray him, therefore he said, "You are not all clean." So when he had washed their feet, put his outer garment back on, and sat down again, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me, 'Teacher' and 'Lord.' You say so correctly, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his lord, neither one who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (John 13:1-17 WEB)

Let's consider what we've just read. Christ's eagerness to share this meal with His disciples, evident in both these passages, is very significant. This is something He had looked forward to, with strong desire, for a long time, which implies that this event was previously planned in eternity. The Greek word used by Luke to describe the intensity of Christ's longing, was translated lust 31 times and concupiscence three times by the King James translators. This gives us a sense of the intensity behind Christ's words: "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you. . .." Undoubtedly this particular meal was planned by heaven to teach something that Jesus greatly desired His disciples to understand.

In John 13:1, we find further indication of this. ". . .having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Greek telos). What does this mean? Certainly this was not the end. The necessary redemptive work of the cross had not been accomplished yet. The Lamb of God had not been slain yet. The emancipation proclamation, "It is finished" had not been pronounced from the cross. What could this mean then, ". . .He loved them to the end"?

The answer is found in the definition of the Greek word telos. W.E. Vine explains, "Telos signifies. . . the final issue or result of a state or process . . . the utmost degree of an act. . ." Telos is the end result and ultimate expression of a thing. Jesus earnestly desired to teach His disciples the end all things relate to. This would be His final and crowning act of service before the time of His suffering. He loved them to the end, to the utmost degree and in doing so redefined, for all generations, the Kingdom and its authority. In that upper room, Jesus set on display the kingdom He was about to bestow upon His disciples. To fully understand that kingdom, we must first comprehend the kingdom that the Father conferred on Christ, for Jesus said, "I confer on you a kingdom, even as (or just like) my Father conferred on me. . ." So what did the King of God's kingdom do in their presence? He took on the form of a servant and washed their feet. Jesus was demonstrating the nature of His eternal kingdom to them. Let's continue with this kingdom in mind.

This Paschal Supper began in the usual way; by the Head of the company taking the cup, and speaking over it. The application that Jesus made was unheard of. He taught that the wine and the bread of this long held traditional meal represented His Body and blood, soon to be broken and shed for them. Amazingly, while He was speaking of this great mystery of humbly and obediently laying down His life for their sakes, an argument broke out among the disciples. They were quarrelling over who would be the greatest. They evidently didn't hear a word Jesus said. He shared the symbols of a life laid down while they argued over who deserved the chief seats in His eternal throne room.

Has anything really changed today? Though not openly, such an argument still rages among God's people. Such ambition still hinders humble service among God's people and, like a dark veil, hides the true meaning of the gospel of the kingdom of God from the world. How often is Jesus' sacrifice ignored or spoken against because of ecclesiastical jockeying for position and power? Jesus addressed this ambition in his disciples by telling them that they held the wrong paradigm of authority and that they would not rule, like the kings of the Gentiles, as they supposed, but instead the greatest among them would be exactly as He had been before their eyes, the servant of all. The servant is not greater than his Master.

Customarily, in the next part of this ceremonial meal, the Head of the house would rise and wash his hands in a show of piety. Evidently, Jesus viewed this as the perfect time to further demonstrate His point. He got up from the table to wash, but He stripped himself and wrapped Himself in a servant's towel. Things were deviating from the norm radically, and it was about to get stranger still. Jesus filled a basin with water and began to wash His disciple's feet. This was unheard of. The heads of households simply did not stoop to such menial tasks. The household servants did this job. What was Jesus doing? Was He deliberately trying to offend His disciples? No. He was demonstrating the kingdom the Father had given to Him. Peter's reaction likely reflected the view of all the disciples. He clearly didn't understand what Jesus was doing and openly voiced his disapproval. Peter might have readily submitted if Jesus had taken upon himself a kingly robe and insisted that others bow before Him in service to Him but this servant's towel and foot-washing -- no way! It put their thoughts of what the kingdom of God is in total disarray.

God forbid that Peter should enable such behavior! "You shall never wash my feet!" he exclaimed, perhaps uneasy with the thought of their Lord stooping to such an unbecoming task. He would have no part of it! He simply refused to take part in something so demeaning to the dignity and station of the Messiah and His kingdom. Everyone knew that Messiah would come as a conquering Lion and crush the Roman eagle, but He would never come bowing and washing feet like a common household slave! Christ's answer to Peter's stubborn refusal was even more perplexing.

"If I do not wash you, you have no part with me." Have you ever wondered why Jesus would say such a thing? Why would Peter's refusal to allow Jesus to wash his feet disqualify him? After all they had been through, was Peter now to be set aside for refusing to put his feet in the washbasin? Doesn't that seem a bit severe? No, not really.

When we consider that foot washing is representative of the very Spirit and purpose behind Christ's life and ministry we can better understand His insistence upon Peter's involvement. Furthermore, no one can have part with Jesus short of their fellowship and participation in the reality that the act of foot washing represents. Think of it! If He, by whom all things were created, humbled Himself and made Himself Servant of His creation, how should we mere creatures live? He took on the servant's towel. Dare we waste our lives posturing our way into elevated positions? Ponder this as we consider again Christ's words to Peter. "If I do not wash you, you have no part with me."

The Greek word for have in this passage is used of people joined by the bonds of natural blood, marriage or friendship. It denotes being closely joined to a person or thing. It speaks of the ground of union. The Greek word translated part is meros, which means a part due or assigned to one; a lot, or destiny. Jesus was saying, "If I do not wash your feet, you cannot be joined to me in companionship, or share in my purpose and destiny." Why? Peter would have been arrogantly going one way while Jesus was humbly going another. "What I am doing you do not understand," Jesus said, "but you will know after this."

Hidden within the example of Christ's humble service to His disciples was a mystery yet to be revealed, the requirement for usefulness in the Kingdom of God, the requirement for having part with Jesus and sharing in His kingdom and authority. What was it that the disciples would come to know? They would finally come to see authority as Christ saw it, not as something to be grasped but as something to be laid down or given and entrusted to God. They would come to see true greatness, not as the world defines it, but as God defines it. They would come to see that the great ones among them are servants, not figuratively or in word only but literally, and that the greatest are slaves. Herein is the ground of authority that we shall frequently return to throughout the remaining pages of this book.

Jesus offered the twelve a kingdom just like the one the Father had given Him. The part (meros) or destiny and the kingdom that He allotted them are undoubtedly one and the same. Jesus offered them a kingdom exactly like (kath-oce'), in proportion as, and in the degree that the Father had given Him. This kingdom was displayed as the King Himself knelt like a household slave, washing their feet, and not many days from then, this very King would follow this path of servanthood to the cross where he laid down His life for all. Jesus required everyone who would dare to follow Him to "deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me." This most certainly applied to the twelve. While we do not deny that they will "sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel," we strongly assert that that was never intended to happen during their earthly sojourn. Nor will anything like it happen in ours, should we choose to follow Him. The earth is the proving-ground of servants, not the footstool of would-be kings. Only those who have overcome the wicked one by the blood of the Lamb and love not their lives unto death will rule and reign with the Son of God when Satan has been cast down once and for all.

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. (Revelation 12:10-11 NKJV)

Until that worm is cast down, he will find a way to manifest in those who rule on this earth, be they in the governments of men or those of the church.

What kind of kingdom did the apostles receive and participate in while here on earth? What part did they have with Jesus? Did they sit on thrones? No. Jesus didn't, nor did they. Did they receive honor, like earthly kings? No. Jesus didn't, nor did they. Did they wear kingly robes? No. Jesus didn't, nor did they. Did ever a kingly crown embrace their brow? No! Did they set up an earthly diocese to broaden the scope of their power and influence? No. Jesus refused to be an earthly king and so did they. Did they dwell in aristocratic castles, like the kings of this world? No. History tells us of their kingdom. Just like their Lord, their stay here on earth was not luxurious. Just like their Lord, their path was filled with suffering and death. Yes, they received a Kingdom exactly like His, a kingdom complete with the cross. Instead of ascending to rule, they followed Christ the King on a path leading downward, ever downward to the fellowship of His suffering, and ultimately to the cross, the grave and glorious resurrection life! In John 21:18-19, Jesus spoke of this kingdom to Peter. "'I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.' Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death with which Peter would glorify God." Church history tells us that when they were about to crucify Peter, he asked that they crucify himself upside down for he knew that he was not worthy to die as His Lord had died. Peter surely did drink of the cup of Christ and is worthy to be called a disciple. Are we? Will we deny ourselves and follow Him?

After Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, the Lord said to Ananias regarding him, "For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Act 9:16 WEB). Years later Paul wrote, "For I think that God has set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men" (1 Corinthians 4:9). (See also 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, Philippians 3:10). What kind of Kingdom is this? What kind of kingdom is it where those who are foremost in calling and commission are set forth last--appointed to death? Only those who drink Christ's cup and are baptized with Christ's baptism can reign with Christ.

Paul wrote, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him . . ." (2 Timothy 2:12). This suffering is initially an inner suffering that occurs when we side with Christ and turn against even our own fleshly ambition to promote ourselves and get all we can get in this life. This suffering becomes outward when we manifest the abiding Christ and take the form of a servant as he did and become obedient unto death. The world loves only those who achieve greatness at the top, where authority is measured by the right or power to give orders and enforce rules. Only those who, by the power of God, have overcome that dark ambition in their own hearts to rise and rule, and have laid down their lives in service, can have part with Christ and share in His authority.

Prologue | Table of Contents | Chapter 2

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