Summary: A sermon that speaks to the issue of Christian service.

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Matthew 20:20-28

Introduction: In our text we have a situation where Salome, the mother of James and John approaches Jesus and makes a very specific request on behalf of her two sons. In the preceding chapter, Mat_19:28, our Lord had promised his disciples, that they should sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes. Salome, probably hearing of this, and understanding it literally, came to request the chief dignities in this new government for her sons; and it appears it was at their instigation that she made this request, for Mark, Mar_10:35, informs us that these brethren themselves made the request, i.e. they made it through the medium of their mother. Clarke's Commentary

What is interesting about this narrative is that she makes this request just after the Lord has told his disciples that he is going to die for the third time! It is obvious that their misconceptions about the true nature of His kingdom and their desire for an exalted position in that kingdom have blinded them to the importance of what He has just said. It makes them seem calloused and crude by comparison.


a. That greatness is based on position

If this were true then kings, presidents, even despots and dictators would be considered great men for we know that is not the case. Think about history and you will know that most of the so called "great men" have not been great in the way that Jesus defines greatness in our text.

b. That greatness is based on possession

Our culture is so the secular side of things that those who accumulate great wealth are considered to be great. Bill Gates, Ted Turner, etc...


a. Let him be your minister (hūmōn diakonos). This word may come from dia and konis (dust), to raise a dust by one's hurry, and so to minister. It is a general word for servant and is used in a variety of ways including the technical sense of our "deacon" in Phi_1:1. But it more frequently is applied to ministers of the Gospel (1Co_3:5). The way to be "first" (prōtos), says Jesus, is to be your "servant" (doulos), "bond-servant" (Mat_20:27). This is a complete reversal of popular opinion then and now.

b. Let him be your servant ()Δοῦλος, perhaps from δέω, to bind, is the bondman, representing the permanent relation of servitude. Διάκονος, probably from the same root as διώκω, to pursue, represents a servant, not in his relation, but in his activity. The term covers both slaves and hired servants.

ILL - Benjamin Franklin wrote, "The most acceptable service to God is doing good to man." Can you imagine what our world would be like if not one wanted to serve? All of us know or at least should know the value of servanthood. Think of what our country would be like without the service of those who have fought and died to preserve and defend America. What condition would our economy be in if no one wanted to "be of service?"

Most churches rely on volunteers for the majority of ministry. Whether large or small a church must have those with a servant's heart. The ministry of the local church stands or falls on the willingness of its members to serve. I sure would not want to pastor a church where all the members wanted to sit and no one wanted to serve! The Lord Jesus is the church's model of the prototypical servant. Hear what he says in Matthew 20:28 "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

What must occur in order for us to be servants?

a. The choice for service

Like everything worthwhile in life we must make a choice to serve. It is against our nature so in becoming a servant we go against all of our natural instincts. Even the Lord's disciples were conflicted about service to others. On one occasion they argued among themselves about "...who would be the greatest in the kingdom..." and earned a rebuke from our Lord. It is not an easy choice but it is choice nonetheless to be a servant. There is a great passage in Exodus 21:

Exodus 21:2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. 3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. 5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: 6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him forever.

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