Summary: When it comes to seeking greatness and dealing with suffering for the sake of our Lord, Jesus advises us: "Bottoms up!"

Matthew 20:17-28

4th Sunday in Lent – A

March 6, 2005


Matthew 20:17-28 Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18 "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!" 20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21 "What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." 22 "You don’t know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" "We can," they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father." 24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 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. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- 28 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."

Bottom’s Up! (Bottom’s Up – greatness is achieved by service; Bottoms Up – Christ’s drink of suffering gives us life)

I. Heights are reached by humility

II. Life is reached by death

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love (2 John 3). Amen.

Dear sons and daughters of the Father,

Imagine with me for a second, a table ringed by friends, laughter and smiles adorn the atmosphere. A man rises, the guests quiet. A gleam comes to his eye as he raises his glass of wine in the air.

What memories does that scene stir up? a wedding, the best man is about to toast two young couples ready to start their new life together; or maybe the president of the business is about to toast a valued member of the team, who is about to step down and enter the new life of retirement; For me, the picture brings to mind a gathering of missionaries, saying farewell to my wife and I, wishing us God’s blessings our new life in America.

When the glass of wine is raised, everyone becomes quiet, because what follows are words of wisdom, blessing, and a hint of grief, because they are spoken at the gateway of major change, when old relationships are about to recede from center stage, and become more of the background of a person’s, or couple’s life.

This morning our Lord gathers his disciples around him, because they will soon be standing at the gateway of dramatic change. Soon they will no longer be graced with his physical presence. Though Jesus is not making a toast, doesn’t even have a cup in his hands, let us give him the attention that a good friend deserves, who offers advice for the gateways of our life.

To refine his discussion in Matthew 20 to just two words, as if Jesus were offering his disciples a toast, I would like you to remember these two words, and use them as the great advice that they are – for the rest of your life. What does Jesus say in Matthew 20? ‘Bottoms up!’

What do I have in mind? Jesus touches on two things: (I.) achieving greatness and (II.) Christian suffering. In both cases, Jesus says ‘Bottoms up!’

I. Achieving Greatness

If you ever wanted to be great… I mean really, truly great, remember: “Bottoms up!” James and John stand as our examples today. They were eager to be great. But they tried taking a shortcut. Working through their mother, they asked Jesus for the privilege of sitting on his right and on his left… positions of power and recognition. We, of course, think that was pretty audacious on their part. But consider for a moment what was going through their heads. James and John had left their fishing nets, their livelihood, behind them as soon as Jesus called them to follow him. James and John were part of that special inner circle along with Peter, that were alone privileged to see the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead and the Lord’s transfiguration. Remember how John was described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” who at the Last Supper did have a position right next to the Lord (John 13:23). These two were just following through on what seemed (to them) to be the Lord’s will anyways. Hadn’t they already received preferential treatment? Who was the next closest contender? Well, Peter, and maybe his brother Andrew.

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