23rd May 2023
Read (Matthew 20v20-34)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
One day the mother of James and John came to see Jesus. What did she want? Mrs Zebedee wanted her boys to have the best seats in the the kingdom of God (v21). Here we see a typical mummy wanting the very best for her beloved sons but her request missed the point of discipleship.
The Lord said to James and John “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (v22). Christ used the image of a cup to describe His future suffering - He would drink the cup of God's wrath. The boys believed they certainly could drink the Lord's cup but they had little idea of what the statement actually meant. Christ said that they would indeed drink His cup - their future was a difficult one and they wouldn't live a life of peace but would be oppressed, rejected and scorned by the people they would try to reach.
However Christ was clear that it was entirely up to the Father as to who would sit at the right and left hand of Jesus (v23). James and John's request angered the rest of the disciples who no doubt had their own sense of entitlement (v24) and so Jesus gathered His disciples around Him once more to correct their self-glorifying ways.
The Lord reminded His followers that in the world around them there were many who lorded it over the people as they exercised their authority (v25), but it was not to be this way in the kingdom. The path of true greatness is not marked by pushing your way up the ladder to achieve the highest position but instead to become a servant. Jesus said if you would be great then you must become a servant to all, if you desire greatness then you must become like a slave to all (v27). Christ was the creator of the universe and yet did not come to be served but to serve (v28). He didn't demand His rights or His privileges but instead laid down His life as a ransom for many (v28b).
Christ's servanthood would be summarised this way by Paul "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2v5-8)
The Lord Jesus couldn't be further away from the selfish mindset that desires to be first at all costs. Our sinful hearts seek our own glory and we happily believe our own press which says that we are just wonderful. Tragically this attitude sometimes manifests itself in an unseemly and sinful rush to the front of the line regardless of who gets hurt. None of us are immune from such behaviour and all of us need Christ's sanctifying grace.
Sin is deceitful and it often closes our eyes to the reality of our true spiritual condition. Just as the Lord restored the sight of two blind men (v29-34) so too we need His touch to remove the sinful scales from our own eyes. May He keep us from sinful arrogance and pride. May He stop us from falling in love with ourselves. May He sanctify us and cause our hearts to delight in the path of servanthood.
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!" (Psalm 115v1)
Q53 Which is the third commandment? The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.