Welcome to Tuesday’s podcast.
Our reading today is Matthew 20:20-34 but today I’ll focus on verse 26-28:
“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
One of my early ministry jobs was working with students in Central London.
One of the job requirements was to set up a café for after the evening service by myself.
I would lay out the chairs; bean bags; set up the obligatory fairy lights and sort the coffees and drinks. I generally did this by myself every Sunday during term time.
I’d be lying that I was filled with joy as I did this aspect of the job. If I’m honest I was filled with frustration. ‘Why am I doing this?’ I should be putting my time to better use. I really began to resent it. ‘If only people saw what I’m doing’ – ‘no one is helping me…’ I felt pretty sorry for my-self. In truth, I thought the actual setting up of this café was beneath me. Of course I would have never admitted that. Ironically I’m sure I would have talked a good game about serving other- but truthfully I did it begrudgingly. Even though I was a Christian and a young leader in the church – what overflowed from my heart during that hour on those Sunday afternoons serving wasn’t gratitude or thanksgiving quite the opposite.
So why is serving such a big deal & why is it sometimes hard to do?
In today’s verses 20-28 we see a conversation with Jesus and Salome (the mother of the sons of Zebedee) who requests that her sons (Jesus’ cousins) may have a place of honour (known as the right hand) with Jesus in the future.
This brief conversation is so illuminating.
Salome’s question reveals her misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission: She’s thinking that he’s like some big shot military general about to overthrow the Romans and liberate God’s people – with power, force and might. She wants her sons to have a secure future – who wouldn’t – and make sure that in the new world order they will have safe and secure jobs with good promotion prospects.
Jesus’ reply reveals his view of power in the kingdom – that true power is when we become servants. This is why being a servant is such a big deal – it’s central to Jesus’ mission and calling. So he talks of ‘cup’ in the Bible that generally refers to destiny – which is liberating people through becoming a servant.
He’s saying to Salome’s sons – his cousins – you want to follow me into my destiny (liberating) then you must become servants – you must take the posture of the servant – the complete opposite of the power seen by so many others.
Serving can be hard to do because it’s so easy to have mixed motivation.
Ask anyone who works in the care profession. Serving can be tiring. Often those industries have a big burnout and people talk of a ‘care fatigue’ – when you are constantly giving out with little reward.
If I go back to my story at the beginning – the reason I found serving so hard was that heart wasn’t right. I took my identity – my self worth from what I actually did and what others thought of me. I ‘served’, kind of, begrudgingly in the hope that someone would say ‘well done Tom – what an awesome servant you are…’ – truthfully I was serving myself.
Getting our hearts right means this we learn afresh what the American Pastor Bill Johnson says is this: “royalty is my identity, servant hood is my assignment…’.
Maybe today you’re at home all day. You’re changing nappies and feeding your child. Perhaps you’re heading to a hospital or GP surgery to do a shift. Perhaps you’re looking after an elderly relative or you’re standing up in front your Y9’s teaching maths or maybe you’re working a job you don’t like to pay the bills.
Today, know that you are loved beyond measure. Your job does not define you – whether you’re earning big dollar or just making ends meet. Your job does not define your worth. Jesus does. What he thinks of you is more significant than your lesson feedback sheet.
Receive his grace afresh. Romans 8:17 says you’re a co-heir with Christ. Wow!
All of us today will probably serve someone if that’s the case then let’s celebrate that we are in the bulls-eye of God’s will for our lives. It’s our destiny – because it was Jesus’ – to serve others.
Thank you for your Grace to us Lord. Help us to know that our identity is in you – and there is kingdom power in serving others.
READING: Matthew 20: 20-34
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him.
‘What is it you want?’ he asked.
She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’
‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’
‘We can,’ they answered.
Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.’
When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’
The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!’
Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked.
‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.