Friday 25 November 2011

Bible Book:

"whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among must be your slave" (vv. 26-27)

Matthew 20:17-28 Friday 25 November 2011


And so what happens next? In yesterday's passage Jesus told thedisciples the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Now Jesus ispreparing his disciples for life without their leader, and hepaints quite a bleak picture. Torture, mockery and death are allpart of Jesus' fate, before his ultimate resurrection after threedays. Despite the resurrection, in this prediction of events, Jesusdoesn't make this sound either like a path he wants to take, or onethat should be envied. But yet, in verse 20, we get a surprisecameo role: James and John's mother appears, presumably Zebedee'swife (Matthew 4:21), requesting a favour. And she asksJesus the not inconsequential question of whether her sons can sitbeside Jesus in heaven. We can assume some embarrassment from Jamesand John at this point, and even more so once Jesus addresses themin front of the other disciples, which causes some consternationfor the other ten. This gives Jesus the opportunity to challengesome possible assumptions about hierarchy and particular positionsthat may or may not be 'up for grabs' in the near future.

Firstly, Jesus is quick to remind those listening that they are allwell used to living under subjugation, and observing a huge systemof hierarchy. The underlying context here is of course that theRoman system produces slavery and victimhood, and all thatparticipate live under the whim of one man, the Emperor. Thispyramid scheme shows its flaws and failings in opposition to thegrowth of the Early Church, and one fails while the other thrives.Jesus shows the disciples just how their new organisation will bedifferent, for "whoever wishes to be great among you must be yourservant".

The inference for James and John's mother is that while she hopedthat her sons would gain a certain kind of glory and renown, theydefinitely weren't going to achieve it in the worldly way that shemight have imagined. If she was in any doubt about the truth ofthese words, Jesus reminds them all of his role, "not to be servedbut to serve" and finally "to give his life a ransom for many" (v.28). From this day onwards, it has been the Christian's aim to livehumbly in imitation of Christ, and aim not for the highest role,but the life that helps others.

To Ponder

What do you value most about the'counter-cultural' nature of the gospel?

What benefits do we receive, knowing that Jesuswas the 'servant king'?

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