Summary: “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” Matt 20:26-28.
Theme: Achieving greatness God’s way
Text: Ex. 12:21-28; Matt. 20:20-28
The purpose for Christ’s coming to earth is contained in the statement, “The Son of man came to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”. God, our Creator, who is to be worshipped, came to serve as an example for us to emulate. In fact, a servant attitude is one lesson Jesus taught His disciples over and over again. He taught them that it was only possible to have the mindset of a servant when they had a right view of themselves and a right view of others. His disciples, however, did not really understand this teaching. This was evident when two of His closest disciples, James and John, requested the best positions in the Kingdom after hearing what He said in Matt. 19:28. He said to them “Assuredly, I say unto you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” They did not really understand what was about to happen in Jerusalem. They probably believed that in Jerusalem He would overthrow the Roman government, make himself King, and rule the people as their King. They therefore wanted the 2nd and 3rd most important positions in this kingdom Jesus was going to establish. Today it would be like asking to be the Vice-President and the Speaker of parliament. What they were asking for was power, influence, and position. That was what they desired, and aspired for. James and John were not the only ones guilty of this. The only problem was that they voiced out their intentions. The other ten confirmed they thought the same way as James and John by their annoyance at this request. They were not annoyed because James and John wanted the best positions. They all wanted those positions. They were annoyed because James and John, by asking for it, wanted to be preferred before them. They wanted the same positions for themselves. They too, wanted the power and position that James and John had requested. In spite of all that Jesus had taught them the disciples were more concerned about themselves and their privileges than about their duties and responsibilities. They wanted the reward without the service, the benefits without the commitment and the blessings without the dedication. They were not prepared to follow the example of their leader who was prepared to serve and die on the cross. They were not prepared to follow the example of Christ by achieving greatness God’s way.
Jesus, who was getting ready to make the greatest sacrifice possible by giving up His life, used the opportunity to once more explain to them what it meant to be His disciple. As His disciples, they are not to see greatness the way the world sees it by desiring to occupy positions of honour but to see greatness as God sees it by serving. He reminded them that discipleship demands obedience and service. The world sees greatness in those who exercise power and authority but God sees greatness in those who serve. As Christians we should view greatness and power differently from the way the world views it. Some people believe that this means that a Christian should not want to achieve greatness. This is far from the truth, as Jesus does not condemn the wish to be great. What He condemns is the way some people achieve greatness. The Christian should achieve greatness but not the worldly way. The worldly way is through bribery and corruption, cheating, immorality, and the misuse of power. God’s way is through service. According to D. L. Moody “The measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves.”
The attitude of James and John is still evident in the Church today. Some preachers often view discipleship in terms of position and privilege. They do not preach to reach the people but preach to become famous and popular. They would preach what the people want to hear and if it is entertainment they want their way of preaching becomes entertaining. Their main concern is about attaining a high status in life. They forget the main purpose of their calling – to serve as the Master served. Refusing to serve others is a peculiar behaviour of crabs. We are all familiar with crabs and for many of us they are a delicacy to eat. But instead of just enjoying them as food if we were to study their behaviour we would see how easily we could identify with them. The ‘pull him down’ behaviour that is popular among us is a very good description of the way crabs behave. When live crabs in a pot are about to be cooked, one does not need to worry about putting a lid on the pot because the crabs would not climb out anyway. The reason is not that they do not have the ability to do so, they have. The reason is they cannot because they do not understand how. When one crab tries to climb out of the pot, another crab would prevent it from doing so by pulling it down and climbing over it. They end up pulling each other down and in the end none of them is able to escape. Things would have been completely different if they had helped each other. They could have helped one crab to get to the top and it could have helped the others get out by pulling them up by their claws. It would have been so easy for all of them to escape from the pot if they had understood what it means to serve. Do we know and understand what it means to serve? Service to Christ or suffering for Christ should not be because of the expected reward but because of our love for Christ. Are we achieving greatness God’s way by serving others? The greatest in the Church is the one who serves the most.