October 17, 2021
Scripture: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26B-28 ESV
Observation: The progression of this chapter is ironic. Jesus first tells the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, illustrating the Father’s generosity to all regardless of how many years they have left to labor in his kingdom on earth. He then foretells to his disciples (for the third time) his soon arrest, torture, crucifixion, and resurrection. Matthew then tells us that the mother of James and John approaches Jesus to request that her boys take the highest-honored positions in his kingdom. Jesus questions James and John about whether they are up for the task because it will involve much suffering: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They naively retort, “We are able” (verse 22b). Of course, when the others hear about it, they are livid. So Jesus calls for a huddle. He reminds them that this way of thinking is worldly, upside down compared to the hierarchy in his kingdom.
Takeaway: Greatness in the kingdom of God is measured by servitude, about giving your life away for the needs of others. Indeed, this was Christ’s mission and ours as well. So how do we stay on track? We are no better than Jesus’ first disciples. They blew right by the lesson of the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard and by Jesus pouring his heart out regarding his soon mistreatment and execution. And so will we, unless the Spirit of God is quickening our consciences and exposing our pride and selfish ambition. The disciples only began to understand the depths of his teaching when they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit of God would continue to expose their blind spots throughout their lives, preparing them to drink from the cup of suffering and offer their lives a ransom for others. In short, greatness in the kingdom of God is upside down and is only obtained over a lifetime through the Holy Spirit breaking down pride and selfishness and building up humility and servitude.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son who has led the way to greatness in your kingdom. Would you please help us to follow in his footsteps and cooperate with your Holy Spirit, that we might expend ourselves for the benefit of others and bring you glory? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling