Summary: Jesus’ leadership command to His disciples was not one of lording it over others in entitlement, but rather selflessly serving them in humility.

Originally preached on September 14, 2006

Sterling C. Franklin

Chapel service, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Not So With You"


Context -- Jesus was going up to Jerusalem since it was about time for the feast of Passover. This is a literal ’going up’ since Jerusalem is a city with high elevation, the Temple being at the pinnacle. Directly before this passage, Jesus reiterates to His disciples that He will be betrayed and Crucified on the trip.

Text: Matthew 20:20-28

20:20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him.

20:21 And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left."

20:22 But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to Him, "We are able."

20:23 He said to them, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father."

20:24 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers.

20:25 But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.

20:26 "It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,

20:27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;

20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

A. Text Walkthrough:


Salome -- the mother of James and John -- kneeled before the Lord

- Sign of respect and deference, also worship


Jesus listened to her request.

Understandable zeal from Salome -- as a mother, she wants the best for her kids. Here, she asked for a position of prominence for her children.

Salome recognized that Jesus had ownership in His Kingdom -- "your kingdom" -- He could command whatever He wanted and it would be so.


You don’t know what you’re asking -- 2nd person plural - "You all"

Jesus understood that it was more of a family request

- Could have been James and John telling their mother to do this with the mentality, ’Maybe Jesus would consider this more if our mother asked Him.’

- Could have been that James and John would have felt embarrassed or wrong for asking Jesus as they were convicted by their own prideful request.

- Application: Sometimes we are convicted by our own sinful thought patterns, even before we act. We should be sensitive to how the Holy Spirit deals with our consciences, remembering that anything not done in faith is sin, as well as anything against God’s Word is definitely sin.

- Application: However, we should in one sense want to be as close to Jesus as possible.

□ This may or may not have been in the sons of Zebedee’s minds, but it is a very possible explanation since they weren’t the ones asking!

- Application: James and John could also have been embarrassed to ask since they respected Jesus so much that they were intimidated by His authority. This can be our natural reaction to an encounter with God. Daniel fell down as though dead when he saw an angel of God (Daniel 8:17-18). Isaiah was in misery for being ’completely undone’ as a man in Holy God’s presence (Isaiah 6).

(25) Gentiles – from ethnos, also can be translated ’pagans’

Jesus did not want us leading in the same manner as the world.

-- Matthew 19 fills us in on something Jesus previously said.

Peter asks Jesus what the disciples will get for following Him and leaving everything behind.

-- You will sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel! (cf. Matthew 19:28). However, even here Jesus mentions the major lesson – "But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first" (Matthew 19:30).

Natural reaction of James & John – WOW! Let’s tell mom about this!

Natural reaction of Salome – wanting the best for her sons.

She seems like a well-intentioned and righteous woman.

However, were James and John alone in their desire for grandeur? No – verse 24 – the rest of the disciples were filled with indignation. THEY wanted the best seats.

Jesus then calls them together and makes it clear that there is a wrong and right way to rule and lead.

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