We have had a good Sunday. For us that means a good day at church leading Grief Share, attending the worship service, serving on the prayer team and a quiet lunch at home It also means a good afternoon nap. It is during this time that I take to heart the words of my neurologist that “rest is important to muscle development.”
BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “You know that the rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it shall be among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others— like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.” Matthew 20:24-28
As the Disciples followed Jesus, they were being trained about the principles and priorities of the Kingdom of God. I recall the words of Jesus to His disciples, “you have heard it said…..but I say unto you….” Jesus may have been referring to the teachings of the Pharisees or what was just “commonly accepted.” But He would draw the contrast to the present world order and the order of God’s Kingdom.
The verses above fall into this teaching contrast of Jesus. The mother of James and John had just asked Jesus for positions of honor for her sons in the Lord’s Kingdom. The others disciples were angry and the tension was high. (Nothing like the fear of getting “beat to the punch” to create conflict.) Jesus used this as an opportunity to draw a contrast between human power and authority and spiritual power and authority.
We can see in Jesus’ day how rulers secular and religious were certainly among the “high and mighty.” Ruthlessness and the arbitrary use of power and the constant reminding everyone of who “they were and others weren’t” was the common approach. On this occasion, Jesus used the “you know how it is…but it is not the way it is to be with you” teaching approach.
The contrast was, the person who is the greatest, is the one who is greatest at serving. Jesus used Himself as an example. He was God in the flesh, but He was one who served others. We would eventually see this demonstrated in the Upper Room, before His arrest and crucifixion, when Jesus washed the disciples feet and assumed the position of a household servant.
Jesus was not only communicating a “kingdom principle” but was sharing how a kingdom principle can lead to effective “earthly” leadership and success. Even today you can find books on “Servant Leadership.” You will find leadership books that communicate the importance of “the team” and the importance of everyone in an organization feeling they have contributed to the successes achieved and just not the leadership.
I recall a friend who was the Fire Chief of one of the largest fire districts in the Denver area. He was a seasoned fire fighter from Brooklyn with the, personalty, accent and demeanor that matched his background. Yet he adopted a mission statement that was even displayed on the fire engines and other department vehicles, “What it Takes to Serve.” One on occasion he told me that when he arrived at the scene of a major fire, it wasn’t “the chief is here and he is know in control.” Instead he would approach his Captains and ask, “how can help? Do I need to take care of the Press? Do you need more equipment, what do you need me to do?” He explained that he had all the experience he needed in fighting fires, he was there to serve and advise, so those under him had the experience that they needed to be the successful in facing any situation they would find themselves in.
We see Jesus’ “inverted world” when he would say, “the first shall last and last shall be first.” We see it when He would place a child in the middle and say, “unless you become like a child you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” We see it when Jesus said, “…the things that are considered of great value by people are worth nothing in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15)
The bottom line is this, “it is not just God’s work, done God’s way that is important. It is all of our work, all of our lives, lived by God’s ways that gives success in this life as well.” Christ is our model and we are to follow Him and His ways in all aspects of our life.