The Key To Greatness – Matthew 20:17-34

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 20:17-34 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Come on Mom!

I love the funny details of the Bible. Like a soccer mom asking the coach for more playing time for her son, the mother of James and John asked Jesus to let her precious babies to sit at the right and left hand side of Jesus in heaven. Here’s Jesus’ response:

“Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” Matthew 20:22

If James and John really knew what suffering they were signing up for, they may not have been so confident. Then Jesus responded,

He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” Matthew 20:23

Jesus basically told them that he couldn’t reserve them a place, but God the Father decides that.

Pride Divides

The result of their effort to exalt themselves caused division among the disciples.

“And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.” Matthew 20:24

Pride divides even the closest of friends. Being in a home of brothers we loved to compete, but when the competition became a source of pride it led to jealous feelings and division. Jesus said leading through pride is the way the world works.

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.” Matthew 20:25

The way that the world defines greatness is by how many/much you rule over. Position and authority is the world’s key to greatness. Prideful leaders will “lord over” others in order to get what they want. This type of leadership is not the kind Jesus modeled for us.

You’ve Got Served

“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26–28

There are several insights from this powerful statement.

1. We should be different from the world.

Christians are to lead by serving and to differentiate themselves from the way the people of the world promote themselves.

2. Leaders must be servants.

If you want to lead, you must be willing to serve. Even Spiderman knows “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Our motivation for leadership should not be to promote ourselves but to serve others.

3. Jesus is our ultimate example

 Jesus, the Lord of the universe came to serve, not to be served. His motivation was others-centered. His entire life was one of service through healing the sick, feeding the hungry and preaching to the helpless. Greater than these things, Christ’s death paid the penalty (or ransom) for our sins, and that is the ultimate service!

True service is costly; Jesus’ death proves that! 

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