Daily Reflection – 3/8/2023
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:17-28)
Once again, Jesus teaches his disciples values that are at odds with the ways of this world.
“whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;”
“whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”
Can you imagine how incredulous this sounded to the apostles? After all, they had expected a Messiah of a different sort. A triumphant king who would rid their world of Rome and its heavy burdens, perhaps even teach the Pharisees a thing or two.
Instead, he told them “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
At this point in His earthly ministry, Jesus had taught them much about love and compassion, about always taking care of the marginalized, about a genuine persona which mirrored a heart focused on the values of God.
But to become as servant? The last shall be first? That is totally turning over the values of the secular world.
It does. It will.
It’s no different for us today. So much of the world fights against the meaning of His words. The world values the prize winner. The person who climbs to the top regardless of how that person got there.
. . . regardless of how that person got there. Take that in for a minute. Your response may be “that’s not true, I don’t believe that a person who rises to the top should be there unless that person has lived a principled life.” My response is “I am sure YOU do but look around this world and see the excuses we make for some we admire.
The simple fact is that in the secular world, leaders exert power, domination, and manipulation. They control people for their own ends. In Jesus’ world, it is altogether different. To be great is to put one’s talents totally at the service of others, to empower not to have power.
That is the measure of a person. Instead of looking for another Messiah, look for Jesus.
Here is the key to understanding His words. The model of servanthood which Jesus presents to his disciples is based on personal choice and freedom – the decision to put others first in my care and concern and the freedom to serve them with love and compassion rather than with fear or desire for reward.
The cup he had in mind was a cup of sacrificial service and death to self – even death on a cross. What kind of cup might the Lord Jesus have in mind for each one of us who are his followers?
For some disciples such a cup will entail physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom – the readiness to die for one’s faith in Christ. But for many followers of Jesus Christ, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations.
An early church father summed up Jesus’ teaching with the expression “to serve is to reign with Christ”. We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service of one another as Jesus did for our sake.
There is such great power in that thought and in allowing that thought to guide our lives. By our personal choice, we desire to follow Christ and, in that desire, means that we are to live as Christ.
THAT is the essence of our Christian life. During these days of Lent, let us renew that vow, to say simply:
“I follow Christ and the actions of my life will show that I seek always to live as He taught us.”
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 your love that I may give generously and serve others joyfully for your sake.”
Ambition for greatness in Jesus’ kingdom will be shown not by positions of authority but by practices of service and ultimately by giving our whole life to rescue others from slavery to sin and death. Today, Jesus asks all of us whether we’re willing to drink that chalice. In an age in which many people speak continually of empowerment as if all of life depended on taking and exercising power, Jesus’ words about transformed ambition are ever relevant… and challenging.