Read Matthew 20:21–28
Journey back with me for a moment to one of the many scenes that demonstrated just how ordinary Jesus’ disciples were. What makes this account interesting is the presence of a mother of two of the disciples. She’s Mrs. Zebedee, wife of a Galilean fisherman and mother of James and John. Let’s consider her request to Jesus:
She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” (Matthew 20:21)
Now don’t be too tough on this dear Jewish mother. She’s proud of her sons! Her motive was probably pure, and her idea was in proper perspective. She didn’t ask that her sons occupy the centre throne, of course not—that belongs to Jesus. But she pushed for James and John as candidates for thrones number two and number three. She wanted people to think highly of her boys who had left their nets and entered this up-and-coming ministry. They were among “the Twelve.”
And that needed recognition!
Just in case you’re wondering how the other 10 felt about this, check out verse 24. It says, “The 10 became indignant.” Guess why. Hey, no way were they going to give up those top spots without a fight! They got downright ticked off that maybe James and John might get the glory they wanted. Sound familiar?
Jesus pulled His disciples aside and spelled out the sharp contrast between His philosophy and the world system in which they lived. Read His words slowly and carefully.
It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:26–28)
In the secular system there are distinct levels of authority. It’s true today, for sure. In the military there are officers and enlisted men...and ranks within each. In sports there are coaches and players. In the business world there are corporation heads and lines of authority between managers, personnel, foremen, and labourers. The person in the labour force is expected to punch a clock, show up on time, work hard, and not take advantage of his or her employer. There’s a name for those who choose not to follow those directions. Unemployed! Why? Because the boss is in charge.
That’s the way the system works. As Jesus put it, “Their great men exercise authority over them.” But then He added, “It is not this way among you” (20:25–26). What isn’t this way? Simply this, in God’s family there is to be one great body of people: servants.
In fact, that’s the way to the top in His kingdom.
Excerpted from Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, Copyright 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.