Saturday

General:
Psalm

'It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.' (v. 26)

Matthew 20:20-34 Saturday 12 November 2022

Psalm 105:1-11

Background

Today’s passage comes immediately before Jesus enters Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11), beginning the final week of his ministry before his death and resurrection. It records the last stages of his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (starting at 19:1), which has taken him through Judea to Jericho (about ten miles from Jerusalem).

The events recorded here are also found in Mark’s Gospel, which we believe was written before Matthew’s (Mark 10:35-52). It is interesting to note some differences between the texts. In Mark’s Gospel, it is not the disciples’ mother who asks for the places of honour for her two sons, but the disciples themselves. The brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were among the first disciples to be called by Jesus and both would go on to become important 'pillars' of the Early Church (Galatians 2:9). This may explain why Matthew transfers this rather embarrassing request to their mother, even though the original Greek of our text makes clear that Jesus’ response is still directed at the brothers. James, at least, though, will show himself ready to share Jesus’ martyr’s death when he is executed for his role in the Church by Herod Agrippa I in 44 AD (Acts 12:2).

In his response to the request, Jesus subverts all contemporary understanding of leadership. For the “rulers of the Gentiles” (v. 25) – that is the kings and emperors of the day – leadership meant tyranny and domination; anything else would have been regarded as weakness. To actively want to be a servant, let alone a slave, would have been unthinkable. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “For how can a man be happy if he is a slave to anybody at all?” 

Later, in his final encounter with people before entering Jerusalem, Jesus is hailed as “Son of David” by the crowd (vs 30-31). Matthew records that Jesus was descended from King David (Matthew 1:6) and this is acknowledged by Paul (Romans 1:3-4). Many people would read this as indicating Jesus was being recognised as the Messiah. However, Jesus himself made clear that merely being descended from David was not the most important criterion for marking out God’s promised Messiah.

To Ponder:

Prayer

Servant God, help us elect leaders worthy of your great example, who love service for others more than their own honour and reward. Amen.

Previous Page Friday