Prepare to Listen. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 20:17-28
17While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, 18‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; 19then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.’ 20Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him. 21And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ 22But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ 23He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’ 24When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
Mom wanted her boys to be the greatest. What mother doesn’t? She probably knew that Jesus wasn’t anti-greatness. He once said that whoever keeps and teaches his commandments “will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” He also taught that the least in the kingdom was greater than John the Baptizer, and he commended a Gentile woman for her great faith. He wants us to be great. The trouble is, like the mother of James and John, we still get greatness wrong. Jesus had just said, for the third time, he would suffer and die, and she asked for her sons to be great, number one and two, ignoring his words about suffering. She’s not the only one to get greatness incorrect. Despite what Jesus said and did, we too still think greatness has to do with power to “lord it over” and be “tyrants over” others, having bigger and better weapons, a stronger military, being the boss. We still haven’t understood Jesus’ way and neither did his disciples.
We need to come back to Jesus’ teaching about greatness. It’s the opposite of what we think and want. You want to be great? Then become the least, the servant to all. Want to be first? Then become a slave, the lowest of the low; become the weakest, the most vulnerable at the bottom of the power pile. This is the way of Jesus, the way he lived. He came, he said, “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Our task? To be like Jesus, a slave, servant to all, giving up desires to be first and the greatest.
Jesus repeatedly taught about greatness God’s way. How is his teaching influencing your thinking?
Respond in Prayer
Lord, help me live more like you, as a servant to all. Amen.
Live Obediently. Stop worrying about greatness and simply serve others.
 Matthew 5:19, 11:11, 15:28.
Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.