Matt. 20:17-28 – Kingdom Greatness
So in this passage Jesus tells his disciples that they are going up to Jerusalem and when they get there he is going to be betrayed, handed over to the Romans to be killed, and then rise again on the third day. This time none of the apostles tell him “no!” or even seem to react (Matt. 16:21). In fact, oddly enough the mother of two of the apostles choose that moment to ask that her two sons have places of honor when his kingdom comes. Several thoughts come to mind. The first is that they are still expecting that he is going to assume his thrown once they reach Jerusalem. All they are hearing is that they are going to Jerusalem. They are not hearing that he is going to be delivered over to the Romans to suffer and die.
The next thought is the universality of a mother’s ambition for her sons. Jesus knows that they have no idea what he will go through when they get to Jerusalem and that it will cost him his blood and his life. And if they are to share in the glory that will follow his suffering they will also share in his suffering. He makes that point clear, even though he knows they’re only thinking about the latter reward and not the former suffering.
Then the other ten apostles hear about this “power grab” and they are understandably angry. Jesus stops the bickering and reminds them that the way things are going to be in His kingdom will be very different from the way things are now. To lead is to serve, not to be served:
“whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26-28)
The fundamental role of one who truly leads is not to sit about on thrones ordering underlings around, but to work so that others can accomplish what they were meant to accomplish. Leaders are meant to serve their “followers” not the other way around. Jesus made the ultimate example of that when he took on our sins on the cross so that we could have full relationship with Him and His Father. JBB 7/16/2005
image: Rouault’s Christ And The Apostles by Ben Sutherland, https://www.flickr.com/photos/bensutherland/3383482427/