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Rethinking Greatness


Matthew 20:17-28

For those of you who are visiting we have for some time been studying from the Gospel of Matthew.

Today, in this passage, Jesus is going to once again try to get these men…these disciples to understand.

In vs. 17 Jesus is about to go to Jerusalem…and He takes His twelve disciples aside and as they walk along He tells them in vs. 18-19 that they “are going up to Jerusalem; and that He will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes…and they will condemn Him to death…and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him…and on the third day He will be raised.”

But now, look what happens in verse 20.

The mother of two of the disciples, James and John, comes to Jesus and she bows down and makes a request of Him.

And they come to Jesus along with their mother and to make a request…and Jesus says, “What do you wish?”

They seem to have the same attitude that many people have today…perhaps some of us.

That is the same way that many people feel today about Christ.

And we also have it in mind that Jesus’ whole purpose today is to “glorify us” instead of us glorifying Him. ”

I have some friends that live in New Hampshire…their names are Bruce and Eleanor Billings.

You see, it seems that many have developed this attitude that Jesus’ whole purpose is to do whatever we ask.

But at the same time we cannot forget who is LORD.

If we have this idea that Jesus is here to just “do whatever we ask”…to “grant us our every desire”…then we are wrong.

Look at verse 20-21 again: James and John and their mother come and they say to Jesus, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left.”

And look what Jesus says: “You do not know what you are asking for.”

So look at what Jesus says; vs. 22:  Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

And what Jesus seems to be saying here to these two men is, “Do you realize how I am going to obtain the glory and honor that you are talking about?”

No one gets an automatic appointment into His glory.

The way you obtain glory and honor and greatness in His kingdom is by humbling yourself…and giving totally of yourself…and submitting to the will of God.

Paul said it this way in 2 Timothy 4 when he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day…”

Paul wasn’t just “granted a place in glory.”

Now a lot of people think they do and they think it in a couple of different ways.

Others think a little different.

That is not how it works.

Jesus asks them, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

And now look at what Jesus says in verse 23: And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink;”

 But look at what else He says in vs. 23: “But to sit on My right and on {My} left, is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

Now notice what happens in verse 24.

So in verse 25, Jesus calls them all together and look what He says: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

Brethren, as disciple’s of Christ we don’t do things the way the world does.

The church is a body…and a body only has one head…and that head is Jesus.

In the church there are a lot of job descriptions.

But we still have a hard time understanding.

So to try and get this point across one more time…look what Jesus says in verse 28: “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.”

Brethren, service is the law of greatness in the kingdom. Even the king is not exempt.

Think about this as we close.

Does it really matter who is first or who is last as long as we all get to where we really want to go?