Mat 20:20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. Mat 20:21"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." Mat 20:22 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!" Mat 20:23 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."Mat 20:24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. Mat 20:25 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.Mat 20:26But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,Mat 20:27and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.Mat 20:28For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many." [NLT]
We are able!
Jesus is again dealing with the problem of self exultation found in the disciples early life with Him. This time he is approached through the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. She is seeking a place of honor in the up-and-coming kingdom for each of her sons. Because they came to Jesus together I would assume that James and John had spoken with their mother prior to this encounter to elicit her help in making this request. James and John implemented this plan in hopes of cementing their position within the "worldly" kingdom that they envisioned was about to be created. Jesus tries to show them the truth when he talks of the sacrifice it will take,
"You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?"
And now, the answer that we hear from all blue blooded legalists.
"We are able!"
We'll do whatever it takes. We'll pay whatever the cost to gain this prize that is being given. So what's wrong with that? They are the ones earning it. They want the reward so much and they are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, except to realize that they can't do anything to earn it. This doesn't even make sense to them...but it will.
James and John both believed that Jesus was the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the problem was that they completely misunderstood what His Kingdom was really going to be. They saw glory and riches and power and honor. All these things have only ever been earned here on earth. Everything they learned, everything they experienced was changed by the filter of self. Jesus knew that this was their misguided understanding. He had the Father to help Him with saying the right things and doing to right things that would bring the disciples around the "everlasting" way.
I ask myself the question, why didn't He just come out and say,
"Look you fools. How many times do I have to say this. You got it all wrong. I'm not here to defeat the Romans and create a glorified Jewish nation; I'm here to defeat the real problem, sin and satan. And the only way to defeat pride and sin is to do the opposite, show love and humbleness."
This is how I would have tried to deal with this problem. Not Jesus. His ways actually change hearts.
Enduring patience and love
When I look into the loving and wise heart of Jesus I see the amazing wisdom of how He taught them the truth with enduring patience and love. Over and over he leads them to the heart of the matter, and I think as our study of Matthew continues we will find that this lesson, this idea, will come out more until Jesus displays the "Final Answer" on the cross. It seems more and more to be the key issue between Jesus and His followers; so, how do we face this issue today? What must we do to be saved? How do we become first by becoming last? Through slavery.
How to become a slave?
In our world slavery has a completely negative meaning. Here, slavery was never a choice. In God's Kingdom we must come to a point where we "want" to be slaves. Jesus said it,
"But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave."
Let's try comparing the difference between a slave of this world and a slave to Jesus and see where that leads us in understanding this concept.
Worldly slave: Does not choose to be a slave but is made one through deceit, force and captivity.
Slave to Jesus: Chooses the slavery and wants to be made into a perfect slave.
Worldly slave: Is forced to the will of his/her master for the master's benefit and pleasure.
Slave to Jesus: Is asked to do his Master's will for the Master's glory. Chooses to do it because he/she loves their Master.
Worldly slave: Is a piece of property to their master.
Slave to Jesus: Is so loved by their Master that He became a slave to prove it to them; even giving His life as a ransom.
Worldly slave: Has no relationship with their master that is not tainted by their master's ability to control them.
Slave to Jesus: Has a relationship with their Master that is based on perfect love and the desire to give of one's self to serve each other.
I think that we could probably add quite a few more analogy's to this list, but let's stop here and have a look. I've noticed three key components. Choice - Love - Relationship.
The worldly slave has each of these components, but they are all tainted by, changed by, sin and selfishness. Choice is taken by force. Love is only for self. Relationship is forced and there only to serve self.
The slave to Jesus has these components also, but they are purified by demonstrations of selflessness. Choice is given freely. Love is for others and not self. Relationship is not forced but desired by both parties.
So, back to our question. How do you become a slave to Jesus? By making the choice to love Him and have a relationship with Him. Surrender to Him and let Him cover you with His robe of righteousness. He did the work, you must make the choice. When you really understand that He did it all, then you will want to be His slave and do anything for Him, because you know that He would do anything for you!
Thank You Jesus for making the choice to love us and have a relationship with us. Thank You that You are a God of Love, and Choice, and Relationship. Thank You for justifying me and covering my sins. Forgive me Lord for my rebellious heart. Lead me into slavery. I want to do Your Will. Come into my life today and give me Your Mind...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
Lord, I also ask that You would cover my daughter with Your robe of righteousness. Forgive her Lord, and lead her to the foot of the cross. Please also cover my son with your robe of righteousness and help me to find a way to share You with him. Amen.
Philippians 1:11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. [NLT]