20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked. She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” 22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If you have been following this blog you have been with me on a journey through 30 days alone with God. Getting alone with Him should be the beginning of change in our lives as He does His work in us but as I have found in my life, He not only wants to work in us but through us. Are you ready for another 30 days with God this time in the area of serving as He works in and through you?
As we start day 1 of serving we start with a request, for a position of greatness in the kingdom of God, directed at the one who gave up the greatest position in the Kingdom of God. This wasn’t just a mother’s desire for greatness for her sons but it was also the desire of both of her sons. They were with her and when Jesus asks “Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” They had a desire for greatness and when the other 10 hear about this they are indignant! Is it wrong to want to be great in the kingdom of God? And why did the other disciples show such displeasure over this? Were they upset that someone else might be getting their position? What is our position in the kingdom of God? I think these questions can be answered by looking at Jesus response:
First I want you to notice that Jesus did not rebuke them, instead he just called them together and corrected their misconception about greatness. A rebuke is used when we are heading down a wrong path and we need to stop. I think what we see here is the disciples heading down the right path but for the wrong reason and so they need corrected.
Second when Jesus says in verse 26 “Whoever wants to be a great among you must….” implies that the Lord doesn’t have an issue with kingdom greatness. Is it possible that Jesus is saying “If you want to be great…ok…then this is the way? Does God want disciples that are great or mediocre in His kingdom? Jesus makes it obvious that greatness in His kingdom does not come through a position of ruling but of serving and over the next 30 devotionals as we looking at Serving we need to understand that the journey of serving is not a separate journey but is intertwined with the journey of:
Before the two disciples and their mother came to ask Jesus about positions in the kingdom, Jesus had been talking about His crucifixion to come (Matthew 20:17-19). About serving them through laying down His life for them, yet they were more interested in a crown than a cross. Thomas A. Kempis, the German scholar, said, “Jesus hath many lovers of His kingdom, but few bearers of His cross. All desire to rejoice with Him; few are willing to suffer sorrow for his sake. Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of his bitter cup.”
I think it is human nature to want the good without experiencing the bad; we want to get to the promised land without going through the wilderness! But serving will mean suffering and if we are honest, for most of us, we are not ok with this, we want to serve without the cost. Jesus talked about the “bitter cup of suffering” He was going to drink in serving us. Every time you lift the communion cup of sweet forgiveness to your lips do you think about how bitter a cup it was for our Lord?
I Pet. 4:12-13 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
As you think about your position in God’s kingdom does it include suffering for Christ?
Worldly greatness is about popularity, kingdom greatness is about humility. We live in a world where everyone wants to be known and we have bought into the belief that popularity is the key to greatness. But in God’s kingdom, the key principle to greatness is humility, and at the heart of humility is a willingness to sacrifice, to give something up for someone else. Verse 28 says “For even the Son of Man came” He came, he showed up and on the surface this seems like just another simple statement, yet it is the epitome of humility. The Lord of glory sacrificed himself to serve by coming in the flesh and giving up the right to comfort, acceptance, the full exercise of His deity, to call his angels and destroy his enemies, the right to save himself from the hands of his executioners, to leave men alone in their wickedness, and the right to back out of His redemptive plan. What would have happened if Jesus upheld those rights to himself? Devastation, every one of us bound for an eternity in Hell! He gave up those rights for our salvation, which was His primary concern. His sacrifice was a life or death decision for Himself and for us! The journey of serving is intertwined with sacrifice. Humility is “the willingness to giving up some of your own rights” so others can get right! Jesus humbled himself on the cross so we could be right with God, salvation was His primary concern, Is it ours? We are ok with His sacrifice, we are ok with Him dying so we can live but are we ok with dying so others can live? Are you willing to give up some of your own rights for the Gospel of Jesus? Is there something you need to give up? Something you need to sacrifice so you can serve?