Up until now, Luke has shown us the ministry of Jesus in and around Galilee. This week will arrive at a turning point. Christ will allow his identity to sink in with his disciples and then turn toward Jerusalem.
Dear heavenly Father,
We believe that Jesus is the Christ, your Son in whom you are well pleased, the Holy One of God. We can see that he exercises authority over nature and the spirit world. We understand that he exercises divine authority because he is God – such as declaring us forgiven of our sins. He has the right to demand our complete loyalty and trust for the same reason. He is God.
We accept that following Jesus means we need to be open to being sent out in various ways to serve him. It means we will have to trust him when that service goes beyond our abilities.
Please help us to see him as fully God as well as one of us, and to see ourselves as no better than others. Please make us willing to give him our complete loyalty and devotion regardless of the sacrifice that requires.
Jesus tells a parable about rewards which leads to some surprises. Then he once again foretells his death and resurrection. He also gives his disciples a lesson on greatness.
Matthew 20.mp3 (Kenny Washington)
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
There may be a proper motive and a right way to seek desired positions within the church, but it isn’t easy. Whatever it is, James and John still had to learn how to do it and so did their mother.
To refuse a position of responsibility, should it be offered to us, is to risk sounding like Moses. He argued with God at the burning bush over his calling to lead Israel out of Egypt. At the same time, to seek the position is risk looking like Zebedee’s family in the passage above.
God calls people to take positions of responsibility. We don’t call ourselves. The most balanced attitude toward this service/greatness tension might have been both expressed and lived out by Archbishop William Temple, who said, “I have never sought and never refused a position of greater responsibility,”*
The key might be in the love of the service itself, rather than the position. Paul put it like this in 1 Timothy 3:1, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” The task, not the office, is the motivator. Jesus uses terms like “servant,” “slave,” “to serve,” and “to give his life,” to describe his own mission. Ours may look similar to his.
If we focus on service, we won’t get derailed by seeking positions. It may be that a higher position of some sort will come our way. If it doesn’t, we still get to serve right where we already are.
*Quoted in Green, M. (2001). The message of Matthew: the kingdom of heaven (p. 191). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Those silly apostles. In Luke 22 we see Jesus about to be betrayed, arrested and crucified – approaching the climax of His mission and ministry here on earth. Sadly, His closest followers seem oblivious. They are so self-centered they get into something of a fight.
“I’m a better Christ-follower than you, Peter, ” says one.
“You are not,” the burly fisherman strikes back.
“Wait a minute! I’m the disciple Jesus really loves,” says John, the beloved disciple.
“He’s just trying to make you feel good because you’re such an idiot.”
And so Jesus, with endless patience, interrupts. He takes a conversation about greatness and makes it a lesson about our willingness to serve others. It’s a lesson we need every bit as much as they did:
Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. – Luke 22:24-27 (NKJV)