(Part 70)


March 4, 2015

Today’s gospel:  Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus asks James and John, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (v.22b). To which they answered, “We can.” (v.22c). They did not understand then (v.22a) and many servant leaders today still do not understand. They are still looking to pride, power and position. They think that what Jesus is asking is this: “Can you drink the piña colada at the Country Club?”

What is the cup that Jesus would drink? “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified” (v.18-19a). Jesus tells us, especially those who seek to serve him, to follow him. All the way to the cross.

We follow and serve Jesus, who is the suffering servant and not a secular ruler. What is the posture of the latter? “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.” (v.25). Such a leader is not a servant but a lord. Such a leader is one who looks to pride, power and position.

Now Jesus tells them about true leadership. “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” (v.26b-27). The greatest is the least. The first is the last. The leader is the servant. Such is the antidote to pride, power and position. It is humility, service and lowliness.

Jesus, whom we look to as Lord and Master and King, “did not come to be served but to serve” (v.28a). He is the leader but he made himself the servant of all. He did not look to pride, power and position, but rather emptied himself and gave all, including “his life as a ransom for many.” (v.28b). That is true servant leadership.

Is it all then about suffering, pain and the cross? It is indeed about those. “My cup you will indeed drink” (v.23a). But it does not end there. Jesus would suffer, but he would “be raised on the last day.” (v.19b). The mother of James and John asked Jesus, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” (v.21b). She looked to earthly pride, power and position. This Jesus could not give (v.23b). But we too, like Jesus, will be raised. It is then that we can sit at Jesus’ right and left in the Kingdom of heaven, as we are given the reward and the glory reserved “for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (v.23c).

So Jesus calls you to servant leadership. You will have to answer two questions of Jesus: “What do you wish?” (v.21a); “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (v.22b).

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