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Matthew Henry's Commentary on Luke 22: 24-30

The Disciples Admonished; Peter's Frailty Predicted.

21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. 22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! 23 And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. 24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. 25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 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. 27 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. 28 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. 29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; 30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

We have here Christ's discourse with his disciples after supper, much of which is new here; and in St. John's gospel we shall find other additions. We should take example from him to entertain and edify our family and friends with such discourse at table as is good and to the use of edifying, which may minister grace to the hearers; but especially after we have been at the Lord's table, by Christian conference to keep one another in a suitable frame. The matters Christ here discoursed of were of weight, and to the present purpose.

I. He discoursed with them concerning him that should betray him, who was now present.

1. He signifies to them that the traitor was now among them, and one of them, v. 21. By placing this after the institution of the Lord's supper, though in Matthew and Mark it is placed before it, it seems plain that Judas did receive the Lord's supper, did eat of that bread and drink of that cup; for, after the solemnity was over, Christ said, Behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. There have been those that have eaten bread with Christ and yet have betrayed him.

2. He foretels that the treason would take effect (v. 22): Truly the Son of man goes as it was determined, goes to the place where he will be betrayed; for he is delivered up by the counsel and foreknowledge of God, else Judas could not have delivered him up. Christ was not driven to his sufferings, but cheerfully went to them. He said, Lo, I come.

3. He threatens the traitor: Woe to that man by whom he is betrayed. Note, Neither the patience of the saints under their sufferings, nor the counsel of God concerning their sufferings, will be any excuse for those that have any hand in their sufferings, or that persecute them. Though God has determined that Christ shall be betrayed and he himself has cheerfully submitted to it, yet Judas's sin or punishment is not at all the less.

4. He frightens the rest of the disciples into a suspicion of themselves, by saying that it was one of them, and not naming which (v. 23): They began to enquire among themselves, to interrogate themselves, to put the question to themselves, who it was that should do this thing, that could be so base to so good a Master. The enquiry was not, Is it you? or, Is it such a one? but, Is it I?

II. Concerning the strife that was among them for precedency or supremacy.

1. See what the dispute was: Which of them should be accounted the greatest. Such and so many contests among the disciples for dignity and dominion, before the Spirit was poured upon them, were a sad presage of the like strifes for, and affections of, supremacy in the churches, after the Spirit should be provoked to depart from them. How inconsistent is this with that in the verse before! There they were enquiring which would be the traitor, and here which should be the prince. Could such an instance of humility, and such an instance of pride and vanity, be found in the same men, so near together? This is like sweet waters and bitter proceeding at the same time out of the same fountain. What a self-contradiction is the deceitful heart of man!

2. See what Christ said to this dispute. He was not sharp upon them, as might have been expected (he having so often reproved them for this very thing), but mildly showed them the sin and folly of it.

(1.) This was to make themselves like the kings of the Gentiles, who affect worldly pomp, and worldly power, v. 25. They exercise lordship over their subjects, and are ever and anon striving to exercise lordship too over the princes that are about them, though as good as themselves, if they think them not so strong as themselves. Note, The exercising of lordship better becomes the kings of the Gentiles than the ministers of Christ. But observe, They that exercise authority, and take upon themselves to bear sway, and give law, they are called Benefactors—Euergetas, they call themselves so, and so their flatterers call them, and those that set themselves to serve their interests. It is pretended that they have been benefactors, and upon that account they should be admitted to have rule; nay, that in exercising authority they are benefactors. However they may really serve themselves, they would be thought to serve their country. One of the Ptolemies was surnamed Euergetes—The Benefactor. Now our Saviour, by taking notice of this, intimates, [1.] That to do good is much more honourable than to look great; for these princes that were the terror of the mighty would not be called so, but rather the benefactors of the needy; so that, by their own confession, a benefactor to his country is much more valued than a ruler of his country. [2.] That to do good is the surest way to be great, else they that aimed to be rulers would not have been so solicitous to be called Benefactors. This therefore he would have his disciples believe, that their greatest honour would be to do all the good they could in the world. They would indeed be benefactors to the world, by bringing the gospel to it. Let them value themselves upon that title, which they would indeed be entitled to, and then they need not strive which should be the greatest, for they would all be greater- treater blessings to mankind than the kings of the earth, that exercise lordship over them. If they have that which is confessedly the greater honour, of being benefactors, let them despise the less, of being rulers.

(2.) It was to make themselves unlike the disciples of Christ, and unlike Christ himself: "You shall not be so," v. 26, 27. "It was never intended that you should rule any otherwise than by the power of truth and grace, but that you should serve." When church-rulers affect external pomp and power, and bear up themselves by secular interests and influences, they debase their office, and it is an instance of degeneracy like that of Israel when they would have a king like the nations that were round about them, whereas the Lord was their King. See here, [1.] What is the rule Christ gave to his disciples: He that is greater among you, that is senior, to whom precedency is due upon the account of his age, let him be as the younger, both in point of lowness of place (let him condescend to sit with the younger, and be free and familiar with them) and in point of labour and work. We say, Juniores ad labores, seniores ad honores—Let the young work, and the aged receive their honours. But let the elder take pains as well as the younger; their age and honour, instead of warranting them to take their ease, bind them to double work. And he that is chief, ho hegoumenos—the president of the college or assembly, let him be as he that serves, hos ho diakonon—as the deacon; let him stoop to the meanest and most toilsome services for the public good, if there be occasion. [2.] What was the example which he himself gave to this rule: Whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat or he that serveth? he that attendeth or he that is attended on? Now Christ was among his disciples just like one that waited at table. He was so far from taking state, or taking his ease, by commanding their attendance upon him, that he was ready to do any office of kindness and service for them; witness his washing their feet. Shall those take upon them the form of princes who call themselves followers of him that took upon him the form of a servant?

(3.) They ought not to strive for worldly honour and grandeur, because he had better honours in reserve for them, of another nature, a kingdom, a feast, a throne, for each of them, wherein they should all share alike, and should have no occasion to strive for precedency, v. 28-30. Where observe,

[1.] Christ's commendation of his disciples for their faithfulness to him; and this was honour enough for them, they needed not to strive for any greater. It is spoken with an air of encomium and applause: "You are they who have continued with me in my temptations, you are they who have stood by me and stuck to me when others have deserted me and turned their backs upon me." Christ had his temptations; he was despised and rejected of men, reproached and reviled, and endured the contradiction of sinners. But his disciples continued with him, and were afflicted in all his afflictions. It was but little help that they could give him, or service that they could do him; nevertheless, he took it kindly that they continued with him, and he here owns their kindness, though it was by the assistance of his own grace that they did continue. Christ's disciples had been very defective in their duty. We find them guilty of many mistakes and weaknesses: they were very dull and very forgetful, and often blundered, yet their Master passes all by and forgets it; he does not upbraid them with their infirmities, but gives them this memorable testimonial, You are they who have continued with me. Thus does he praise at parting, to show how willing he is to make the best of those whose hearts he knows to be upright with him.

[2.] The recompence he designed them for their fidelity: I appoint, diatithemai, I bequeath, unto you a kingdom. Or thus, I appoint to you, as my Father has appointed a kingdom to me, that you may eat and drink at my table. Understand it, First, Of what should be done for them in this world. God gave his Son a kingdom among men, the gospel church, of which he is the living, quickening, ruling, Head. This kingdom he appointed to his apostles and their successors in the ministry of the gospel, that they should enjoy the comforts and privileges of the gospel, help to communicate them to others by gospel ordinances, sit on thrones as officers of the church, not only declaratively, but exhortatively judging the tribes of Israel that persist in their infidelity, and denouncing the wrath of God against them, and ruling the gospel Israel, the spiritual Israel, by the instituted discipline of the church, administered with gentleness and love. This is the honour reserved for you. Or, Secondly, Of what should be done for them in the other world, which I take to be chiefly meant. Let them go on in their services in this world; their preferments shall be in the other world. God will give them the kingdom, in which they shall be sure to have,

1. The richest dainties; for they shall eat and drink at Christ's table in his kingdom, of which he had spoken, v. 16, 18. They shall partake of those joys and pleasures which were the recompence of his services and sufferings. They shall have a full satisfaction of soul in the vision and fruition of God; and herein they shall have the best society, as at a feast, in the perfection of love.

2. The highest dignities: "You shall not only be provided for at the royal table, as Mephibosheth at David's, but you shall be preferred to the royal throne; shall sit down with me on my throne, Rev. iii. 21. In the great day you shall sit on thrones, as assessors with Christ, to approve of and applaud his judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel." If the saints shall judge the world (1 Cor. vi. 2), much more the church.

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