STRIFE AMONG THE APOSTLES
Luke 22:24-30 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth; is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as He that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Strife and contention continued to exist among the apostles of Jesus over which of them should be accounted the greatest. On two other occasions this dispute among them was brought to light by the writers of the gospel records during the earthly ministry of Jesus. The first occasion is recorded in Matthew 18:1-4, Mark 9:33-37, and Luke 9:46-48, while Jesus was teaching in the area around Capernaum. A dispute arose among Jesus' disciples about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus, by way of a reprimand, answered their egotistical question of self-honor and pride by bringing a little child unto Him. With the child before them, Jesus sternly told them that except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. In other words, the kingdom of Christ will never be open to receive those having a self-righteous character. He adds that to possess greatness in the kingdom of heaven, one must become and remain as humble as a child (Quotations are taken from Matthew's record of this incident).
The second instance of strife was brought to light while Jesus was teaching in the area east of the Jordan River, later known as Parea. It was recorded in Matthew 20:20-24, and Mark 10:35-41. Here, the mother of Zebedee's children came to Jesus and requested that He appoint her sons, James and John, to be His primary ministers. As He ruled over His kingdom, she asked that He reward them with seats of honor and authority, both to His right and to His left hand. Looking back as this incident we can readily see that they completely misunderstood the nature of Jesus kingdom, expecting it to be an earthly realm. Without fully describing the true nature of His kingdom, Jesus put to rest this dispute by telling them that granting such a request was beyond His authority. Continuing, Jesus told them that it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father (Matt. 20:23). This request, and the resulting dispute among the apostles, brought indignation against the two brethren (Vs. 24), that is, against James and John.
The teaching of Jesus in the two instances noted above fell on deaf ears, primarily because an earthly kingdom was still expected to be ruled by the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Savior. The strife among the apostles, noted in the lesson text, took place in Jerusalem and occurred either before or immediately after eating the Passover meal with Jesus. They disputed among themselves as to which of them should be accounted the greatest. Certainly Jesus had the authority to severely reprimand them for striving among themselves for greatness in His kingdom. Yet Jesus calmly explains their lack of understanding by comparing the kingdom of heaven to kingdoms of the earth.
It is well known that during the Roman conquests, nations would be conquered and their rule was often turned over to the military leader that led their armies in this conquest. They were referred to as the benefactors of the people in this new Roman nation, holding the greatest and highest position of authority. Jesus, in this instance, is not condemning civil authority, because in other teachings, He tells us to respect governmental earthly rulers. Knowing the nature of kingdoms in the world, Jesus tells the apostles that the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom over which He will rule, will not be like this. He will not appoint them ruling benefactors over those in His kingdom, the church of Christ. Rather they are to find greatness in becoming servants of the members of His body. But as a reward for continuing with Me in My temptations, He would reward them just as God rewarded Him - without a display of earthly grandeur. They would be honored to sit with Jesus at His table in His kingdom and receive spiritual, rather than temporal thrones. They would not judge the world, but their Holy Spirit-inspired gospel of salvation would be the foundation of Christ Jesus' final judgment of all mankind.