Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
To put this passage in its context, the mother of James and John had just asked Jesus to elevate her sons to his right and left when he comes into his kingdom.
They got that he is a King with a kingdom. But they still couldn’t grasp what kind of King and kingdom. And neither do we. There will, indeed, be people on his right and left when he is lifted up. But they will be two thieves crucified next to him. The cup Jesus will drink is not a crown or a throne. It is a cross and a yoke.
It’s interesting that James and John were already in Jesus’ inner circle. It seems this request was designed to undercut Peter and push him out of his place of influence and perceived highest rank. They wanted more than intimacy with Jesus; they wanted influence. More than proximity to him, they wanted power over the other disciples.
Jesus used this power grab to envision a counterintuitive path to greatness. It denies the pyramid organizational chart of hierarchy. Jesus says that in his kingdom, greatness is found by serving others. It is not defined by position, but by posture. And his own life carves out the way. Ask yourself, what official position did Jesus hold? What posture did he take?
Dr. Cornel West famously said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Likewise, I believe that service is what love looks like in private. Now go, be great, for the glory of God and the sake of others.
Jesus, Servant King, teach us to live in a posture of service. Form in us true kingdom greatness for the glory of you and the sake of others.
1. Whom will you serve? (No vague categories. Name a specific person.)
2. How? (Get specific. Spell out actions you will take.)
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