In Luke 9, Jesus rebuked his disciples for three misguided feuds.
A Feud among Insiders (vv. 46–48)
Believing that Jesus was going to launch an earthly kingdom, his disciples started arguing about “which of them would be the greatest” in his administration.
Homing in on their fuss, Jesus said, “He who is least among you all—he is the greatest.” He drew a child to him, putting them on notice that if they were going to plot a pecking order, this was the place to begin. Children were helpless and insignificant in Hebrew culture. The kingdom greats wouldn’t be those who clawed their way to prominence and power, but those who stooped to support and serve the defenseless and irrelevant. “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me,” Jesus said. In his kingdom, vanity was out; humility was in.
Jockeying for apostolic preeminence was ugly, inappropriate, and disruptive. It displayed pettiness and arrogance. Self-promotion is unbecoming in Christians, and especially unseemly in leaders.
There is no place in Jesus’ kingdom for political one-upmanship. His call is to service, not status; cooperation, not competition.
A Feud with an Outsider (vv. 49–50)
The apostles bumped into a man in their neighborhood who was ministering in the name of Jesus—intruding on their turf. “We told him to stop,” they told Jesus, “because he does not belong to our group.” “Don’t stop him,” Jesus said, “because whoever is not against you is for you.”
From a large pool of disciples, Jesus chose twelve as apostles, but he didn’t diminish those who didn’t belong to their group to second-class discipleship. He rebuked the apostles for their exclusivity—their pride of podium privilege.
Perceiving the ministry of others as competition is wrong-headed. Magnifying the value of our ministry over the work of others is unworthy. No one owns the franchise for kingdom work.
Exclusivism was a dominant position of Pharisaism—a spirit Jesus loathed. Sadly, that spirit entered the church early—and has stayed late.
Your work is important, but it’s not the only game in town. You’re ministering in a way no one else can. So are your brothers and sisters. We aren’t competitors; we’re comrades. A posture of superiority is spiritually terminal.
Maintain focus. Making Jesus known is crucial. How and by whom he is made known, not so much.
A Feud with a Village (vv. 51–5)
The shortest route to Jerusalem—where Jesus was headed—was through Samaria. So he sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to make arrangements for food and lodging for his entourage.
It didn’t go well: their request was rudely rejected—met with hostility, not hospitality. Two hot-blooded brothers, James and John, were furious and itched for revenge: “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” they asked.
“Jesus turned and rebuked them.” These “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17) had earlier heard Jesus say: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk 6:27–28). They’d missed his message.