Daily Reflection – 7/25/19
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just 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: 20-28)
People seem to have an unquenchable thirst for recognition and fame, power and authority to rule our own lives as we please as well as the lives of others. Should we be surprised to see the disciples of Jesus thirsting for power, position, and authority? James and John, the sons of Zebedee, urged their mother to strike a deal with Jesus, their Master and Messiah. They wanted the distinction of being first and most important in position, next to Jesus, of course!
When Jesus called the twelve apostles to be his inner circle of disciples who would teach and exercise spiritual authority on his behalf, he did the unthinkable! Jesus taught contrary to the world’s understanding of power, authority, and position, by reversing the order of master and servant, lord and subject, first and last! Jesus wedded authority with love, position with sacrifice, and service with humility. Authority without love is over-bearing and slavish. Position without respect and concern for the subordinate is demeaning and rude. And service without generosity and sacrifice is cheap and unkind.
If it is our destiny to live in a world of competition, what is our call? It is a summons from Jesus to live in the Christian community as the servants of one another. “The essence of discipleship consists not in the enjoyment of privilege but in rendering service to others” Jesus acknowledged that, among the Gentiles, it was common that the great should lord it over the rest and the rulers should exercise arbitrary authority. “It shall not be so among you,” he said; “but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.”
It is the self-sacrificing of Christ on behalf of others that is our model, example, impetus, motivation for servanthood. Jesus showed his servant leadership in giving his life to set people free. This is not what Jesus intended. He intended what Paul terms looking “not only to [your] own interests, but also to the interests of others”..
Our call, then, is to servanthood: to have, as Paul puts it, “this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5); to seek the welfare of our brothers and sisters in Christ and of our neighbor; to be disposed to serve rather than to be served. If honor and respect come of all that or through all that, one is not to shun them or pretend to be surprised or play the no-account.
The world desperately needs servant leaders. None of us dare to aspire to be a Martin Luther, an Abraham, an Abraham Lincoln, or a Joan of Arc. But we may — and must — aspire to be servants of one another, to seek the common rather than our own private good. This we can do; it is well within our capabilities. And if others should see our service and summon us to lead them — first within the church, then possibly in the in the world — we may trust the call of Christ and follow that path to greatness.
Prayer of The Day
Lord Jesus, make me a servant of love for your kingdom, that I may seek to serve rather than be served. Inflame my heart with love that I may give generously and serve joyfully for your sake.
If there is anything this passage communicates, it’s that the Kingdom of God is found not in the gold encrusted crowns of earthly power, but in the sharpened thistles in the crown of thorns when we live our life for others, seeking nothing in return.