My Grandmother Irene thought I was destined for greatness, the Presidency, to be exact. Now admittedly, she died when I was four, so she didn’t have much to work with when making such predictions of high accomplishment. But she loved me, and sometimes that’s all it takes to imagine great things for our progeny.
Salome (see Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40) had similar visions of grandeur for the two disciples James and John, but we can forgive her, for she was their mother. And we can also be thankful to her, because her question in Matthew 20 led Jesus to describe His ministry and in the process, to tell us one of the great secrets of life.
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Matthew 20:20-21 (ESV)
Why do you suppose she asked this? I can only imagine that she felt these high positions would be the road to happiness for her boys, and isn’t that what all mothers want for their children? Yet her question launches Jesus into a long discussion of what it means to be great in His Kingdom, and leads Him finally, to this:
“…But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 (ESV)
Jesus said the way to greatness is service, but servanthood is more than the way to greatness – it is also the way to joy and peace. Some years ago I read a little tract entitled, “What made you cross?” which explained this phenomenon. “Cross” happens to be an old word that my mom used for me when I was upset or angry. And that’s what it meant in this little reading. The idea was this – oftentimes we find ourselves frustrated and out of sorts, and the reason is that we have entered into a particular situation with the goal not to serve, but…to be served. And many of our problems in life come about because we’re so caught up in ourselves; we don’t approach life as Jesus did.
For instance, you’re invited to a party where you don’t know very many people, and you find yourself worrying about who you will talk to and whether you will fit in. You are worried and fretful because you are coming to be served. Instead, go into the situation resolving to find and draw out people who themselves are having trouble fitting in, and you will find your concerns melting away. One of the great secrets of life and joy is…coming to serve. Living life with such a mindset changes everything.
And of course, there is only one way we can successfully adopt such a mindset – it is in knowing deep down that we have a Savior who at every turn lived and died…for us. Knowing such love gives us security to cease worrying about ourselves and frees us to live the same way, which in the end results…in our joy.
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)
Tomorrow, Thursday, January 29th: Matthew 21