Summary: In the Christ’s Kingdom the Way Up is Down: To be the greatest you must become the least, and to be a leader you must become a servant.

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The Way Up is Down

Matthew 20:20-28

Series: Vertigo: Discovering Your Direction through Service:

1.The Way Up is Down

2.Firm Footing

3.A Little Does a Lot

4.Inside Out

Written by Steve Miller, as part of the NRHC Carolina Network (


Do you know how if feels to have your eyes play tricks on you? Optical illusions are fun because they make you see things that aren’t really there. Your mind will actually change your perception of reality so that it makes better sense.

But sometimes our minds can play very serious tricks on us, and we can become disoriented—even to a point that we feel like the room is spinning. This can be caused by vertigo. Fluid in our inner ear reacts to earth’s gravity, and our mind makes sense of this feeling to tell us if we are moving, which direction we’re headed, and how fast we’re going.

Some say that vertigo was to blame when John Kennedy, Jr. and his wife died in their small plane a few years ago. In the last few minutes before Kennedy’s little single-engine airplane went into the heavy seas off Martha’s Vineyard, its radar track showed all the evidence that he was suffering from vertigo.

The plane’s instrument panel told him that his wings were tilted steeply to the right of level, the nose of this airplane was pointing way down, and the airspeed was already howling past the red line. But because it was night and hazy his eyes couldn’t really tell up from down and left from right. And because he was going extremely fast his inner ear couldn’t pin-point gravity—he was being pinned to the back of his seat. Vertigo was confusing his mind into thinking that he was strapped into a seat as level as you are right now, even though his instruments told him what the reality was.

And there is the crux of the matter: the pilot’s emotions drowned out what the flight instruments said was true This is a particularly tragic example of a trait we all seem to share in common. We all seem to have the propensity to go with what we think we know. But often times, what we think we know is at odds with the way things really are or should be. Many of us walk around in a constant state of moral, spiritual, and practical “vertigo” in our everyday lives because what we think is the right way to handle life just doesn’t match up with God’s ideals.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at how our society’s view (and consequently, for many of us, our own view) of achieving significance in life is at odds with God’s principles for living lives of significance.

This week we’ll explore a lesson that sent the disciples reeling with vertigo-like confusion when Jesus told them, THE WAY UP IS DOWN

Matthew 20:26-28

Today, we’ll learn that the Way Up is Down: To be the greatest you must become the least, and to be a leader you must become a servant.

v20-21, Almost everyone has bought into the world’s definition of Leadership

Mother Zebedee wants her sons to be leaders. You don’t have to necessarily want position for yourself to misunderstand that the Way up is Down. This is a misperception almost everyone has bought into.

Only some of us will admit that we want to have a better position in the ranks. But others may say that they do not care to aspire to Donald Trump’s stature, but almost everyone has bought into the world’s perception of what a true leader is.

The world’s definition of a leader is one who gets others to do what he wants. Jesus even identifies that in his own statements (see verse 25)

v22-23, v24-26 Jesus is telling us that our perception is mistaken

Jesus isn’t mad here (the others get mad v.24—their just upset that they didn’t think of it first). He doesn’t rebuke our misconceptions, he corrects them. He tells James and John (though M.Zeb. asked) that they are approaching this with the wrong attitude—

It’s not a question of position/privilege; It’s a question of service/sacrifice

--The way to significance in the kingdom is not sitting on a throne, until you’re willing to be on your knees. Jesus exemplified this on the night of his arrest when he washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:3-17)

--The way to significance is not in how much you accumulate, but how much you’re willing to give. (Rich Young Ruler)

The fact is that no one is guaranteed a position that the world is going to esteem, but everyone is called to have the mind-set of a servant just like our Lord (Phil. 2.4)

And when James and John thought they knew what they were asking, Jesus exclaimed, “You will drink the cup—you will follow my example of suffering.” Romans 8:17 says, “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

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