16 November 2019

Matthew 20:20-34

“And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’” (v. 21)

Psalm: Psalm 105:1-11


It’s a really short question – “What do you want?”

Is it an invitation or a confrontation? Is it really bad timing to be asking a completely wrong question, or perfectly timed? The latter seems more likely as the narrative takes Jesus’ fate and opens it up to his followers. Are they being paid for their labours in the vineyard? Not only can death not be avoided but also another reference to the first and the last is unavoidable as Jesus presses his point home: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.” (vs. 25-27)

Tyranny is completely unacceptable in the Jesus movement, yet there has been a long history of Christian and church tyranny (one of the reasons why I think Jesus never wanted to create a ‘Church’). One of the great sayings of Islam is, "The best jihad is a word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler" (‘jihad’ is commitment to the struggle to follow God, not ‘holy war’), and more widely we talk of ‘speaking truth to power’. Note how truth and power are juxtaposed; the closer we come to truth the less power we have. Jesus speaks to Pilate about truth at the very moment he has least power (John 18.37).


To Ponder:

  • What do you want?
  • How does power feature in your Christian outlook?

Bible notes author

Julian Bond

Julian works for the Connexional Team as the grants team leader. Previous to that he was the director of the Christian Muslim Forum, which is built on friendship between a group of Christians and Muslims, showing how faith is a catalyst for good relationships and welcomes the 'other'.

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