No, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to take the first place among you, must be your slave; Just as the Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:27-28)
The disciples were looking for the big payout at the end. They had endured the rejection that came with following Jesus, and it was time to check out the rewards. But who would get the greatest reward?
James and John were too timid to ask them for themselves, but their mother was not. “‘I want you to say,’ she replied, ‘that in your Kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right, and the other on your left.’” (Matthew 20:21) Needless to say, the rest of the disciples were furious. Who were these guys to get the greatest place of honour?
Instead of rearranging the heavenly organizational chart, however, Jesus threw it out altogether. He started by inverting the pyramid, so to speak, and putting those who wanted to be on the “top” to do so by being on the “bottom” of the heap.
Needless to say, that took the wind out of everyone’s sails.
Jesus’ purpose on this earth wasn’t to come and make a career possible for his disciples and those who came after them. It wasn’t to give pride of place to the likes of Diotrophes, “who loves to be first among them” (3 John 1:9). It was for all of us who profess and call ourselves Christians to humble ourselves and follow Jesus in being the servant of all.
“But (Jesus) impoverished himself by taking the nature of a servant and becoming like men, He appeared among us as a man, and still further humbled himself by submitting even to death–to death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8). Leaving sinlessly perfect heaven to do that was major. Are we willing to make major sacrifices to do his will and achieve his purpose? Are we willing to come as he did, “not to be served, but to serve?”