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Summary: Servanthood message based on Jesus’ words from Matthew 20:20-28

The Key to REAL Greatness

Matthew 20:20-28

April 27, 2008



We: When we think of greatness, all sorts of things come to mind.

You might think of great men and women of history – Washington, Churchill, King, Helen Keller, and other such people.

You might think of great men and women of the church – Billy Graham, the apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and folks like that.

Or maybe you’re thinking more along the likes of famous movie stars like John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, or Charlie Chaplin.

These are all names we know and recognize – they were or are, great people.

Their influence on human history is undeniable.

And I think that deep down, all of us would like to have people recognize our names without having to read a name tag.

The world says that greatness is gained by fame and fortune. But our passage today gives an entirely different view of what greatness is really all about.

God: Matthew 20:20-28 (p. 697) –

We’re going to work our way through this passage and I want to show you a couple or three things that we can learn from the disciples and Jesus.

Before we read this I want you to remember that Jesus had just said He was going to be flogged and crucified.

This was the third time He’d told them this, so He’s hoping they’ll keep all that in mind as they get closer to Jerusalem where it will all happen.

And that’s the background as we pick it up in verse 20 –

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."

Let’s camp here for a bit.

This passage illustrates something that I keep telling people: that the Bible deals with stuff that you and I deal with all the time.

In this case, it’s two guys whose ambitions clouded the really important stuff.

You gotta admit – this doesn’t put James and John in the best light, does it? And now we’ve got this eternal record of these guys and their mom asking for special favors, and the rest of the gang jumping all over them for it.

I don’t know about you, but I’d just as soon that everyone forgot when I did things that were embarrassing, how about you?

A few years ago I was able to reconnect with my best childhood friend from when I lived in Eagle Butte. His name is Mark.

Mark and I did a lot of stuff together. Stuff that when you’re 10-12 years old seems really cool, but when you’re a grown-up could be really embarrassing if anyone found out about it.

He was at my ordination a couple years ago, and it would have just about killed me if he would have loudly started telling stories to say, the District Superintendent.

Thankfully, Mark has a lot more class than that!

But James and John have this hanging over their heads forever. And I think it adds credibility to James and John, because we get to see what God does in them, especially after the resurrection.

It also adds to the credibility of the Bible, because it doesn’t hide the failings of these guys who were two of the leading apostles.

One thing that no one can accuse the Bible of is painting everyone with a spiritual gloss. It tells us all the time about how some of the great people of God fell on their faces.

Guys like David, Abraham, and Peter. Guys who blew it big-time.

People like you and me.

I don’t think there is anyone here who loves to be unappreciated and ignored, right?

I think that all of us can identify somewhat with James and John here. They wanted what they thought they had coming to them.

These guys and their mom came to Jesus with the idea that they could secure one of the “sweet seats” next to Jesus.

Just back in chapter 19, Jesus told the disciples that they would sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel, and James and John were hoping to get the best of the thrones.

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