Summary: Jesus redefined greatness for His disciples - not to go for positions of privilege and power, but to be a servant and serve the needs of others.
Jesus redefined what it means to be great, at Christmas
• Phil 2:6-9 “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…”
• Matt 20:28 “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Greatness is not a position you hold. It is defined by servanthood – the desire to serve the needs of others, even at a cost. That’s what makes a life great!
• Two disciples, James and John wanted to be great too, but they got it all wrong.
• They wanted an easy way to greatness and requested Jesus to exalt them, to positions of privilege and power.
Let’s read Matt 20:20-28. This request was made by their mother.
• If you look at Mark 10:35-45, Mark wrote that the request was made by the brothers themselves. I believe all three were talking about it with Jesus.
Jesus corrected them and highlighted TWO things worthy for us to note:
(1) 20:23 “These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
Who exalts? The Father exalts. Phil 2:9 says “Therefore God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name…”
• I was reading 2 Chron 1 this week in my devotion. God appeared to King Solomon and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (2 Chron 1:7)
• His reply was: “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” He was thinking about how best to lead God’s people, to serve the nation.
• And the book made this clear - 2 Chron 1:1 “Solomon son of David established himself firmly over his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great.”
(2) 20:26 “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”
Don’t ASK to be great, SERVE to be great. That’s the pathway to greatness. That’s the road Jesus took.
• The Father blesses those who humble themselves to serve others.
• We don’t make use of others to get your way. We don’t step onto others to climb up the ladder. We don’t compete with others to get ahead.
• All these will result in strife and discord. That was what happened – the ten other disciples were angry.
People don’t usually like to serve others. We prefer to be served.
• I find that one of the reasons why we have a hard time getting people to return the trays after eating or clear the tables at hawker centres is this good feeling of being served.
• We prefer to have cleaners to do the job. We pay them to do the work. It is a nice thing to be served.
I am the sponsor to 4 study mothers here in our church.
• Foreigners studying in Singapore need a Singaporean to act as their sponsor for them to stay in Singapore. There was a time I was sponsoring 6 to 7 of them.
• It all started with a need. They do not know many Singaporeans here when they arrived. They came to church, and application like this requires them to go online and read English. So I helped.
• And I got reprimanded - that it is dangerous, you should not have done that, can you really trust them, what if they run away or commit a crime, and then you’ll be in trouble…
I reckon that all these are true. You need to be wise, of course. I don’t do that with total strangers. I am more careful now.
• But there is no easy way out. To help someone means you must be prepared to take a risk; there is a price to be paid.
• To save us, Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:8) He gave “his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28) because that was what we need.
We are NOT called to make such noble, great sacrifices, although a handful may be.
• For most of us, I believe God wants us to learn to serve by being willing to endure some inconveniences. If you are not prepared for any inconveniences, you will not serve.
• Serving God and serving people requires certain sacrifices.