Matthew 20:25-34 (ESV)
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.” 29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
The disciples were furious because James and John asked their mother to request that they be seated in the positions of honor, the right and the left hand, in Jesus’ coming kingdom. But why were the disciples so mad? They were angry because they wanted those spots too! It wasn’t fair! Why did James and John have to ask first? So Jesus gathered them together and taught about what real greatness in his kingdom looks like. It isn’t about self-promotion. Jesus reminded them of a truth they all knew: rulers of nations exercise authority over their subjects. Most people want to climb to the highest possible place of leadership to get others underneath them. Those that gain positions of authority typically end up harshly treating the common people or the ones they have power (v. 25). But the followers of Jesus are to behave totally differently. In fact, the one who wants to be first must be the slave of others. In the Roman world, there was no status lower than that of a slave. The slave’s role was to make sure someone else’s needs and desires were met. The slave was to put the interests of another before her own interests. This is exactly what Jesus did. He humbled himself and took on human flesh. He allowed himself to go all the way down the social ladder to the slave’s death of execution on a cross, all for our benefit. He calls those who trust in him to imitate his example.
Do you want to be great in the kingdom of God? There’s nothing wrong with that! But we must remember that to be considered great in heaven we are called to serve. The goal of the Christian should be building into others instead of ruling over them. In whatever areas of our lives God has graced us with authority, let’s use our “power” to better the lives of those around us. Where can you serve others today in your church, in your community, and in your home? Remember, those who serve give themselves up when they focus on and are attentive to the well being of others. Let’s follow the example of Jesus, and let go of our own interests for the glory of God and the good of others. By doing so, we can choose to be truly “great” in the eyes of the Lord today!