Matthew, 20:26-28, It shall not be so among you. 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.”
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This writing is still related to the previous one about the Disciple.
The Disciple writing emphasizes that is compulsory to leave everything behind to follow God, to answer His call. There would be no way we could call ourselves His disciples otherwise. We understand that there are many things we have to let go of. Including, this world and even ourselves. Not only does God have to be number one, but He has to be the only one, He is the first of all! 1 John 2:15-17 says Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Yes, unless we learn to do God’s will, there is no way we can survive as His disciple. ‘Abides forever’ at the end of verse 17, has the meaning of to dwell, stay, abide forever. As long as we still continue to do our will, we will not be able to stay forever. We must learn to surrender to His will.
When we surrender to His Will
In the last part of Daniel 11:32, those who choose to know their God (His Will) shall stand firm and take action. In a different translation, it is stated that they will do pivotal things and carry out great exploits.
So when we give up, when we let go off of our wills and desires, when we choose to do and walk on His will, we will find ourselves doing pivotal things instead. Things that are impossible and comes with tremendous influence and impact.
But on that day, the 10 disciples of Jesus were angry with James and John because of their desire to become great and be the first in positions, Matthew 20:24. The desire and ambition of James and John made them willing to drink the cup of God (Matthew 20:22) without fully understood it properly; in addition, this was also conveyed by their mother (Matthew 20:20).
Kingdom of God
In Matthew 20, once again, the Lord speaks of His Kingdom in parables. Verse 1, as for the kingdom of heaven … This idea of the Kingdom of God is spread so widely, especially among the disciples. Jesus repeatedly taught them. In the three previous chapters they had just understood who Jesus really was, the Messiah they had been waiting for, Matthew 16:16. Wow, this is the King and Deliverer we’ve been waiting for. We will be free from Roman rule very soon! thought the disciples, which originated from John 6:15. Not to mention in chapter 19 itself, a chapter earlier, they heard the promise of God that in His coming Kingdom those 12 would sit on 12 thrones to judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).
So in Matthew 20:20-21 AMP, Then the mother of Zebedee’s children came up to Him with her sons and, kneeling, worshiped Him and asked a favor of Him. And He asked her, What do you wish? She answered Him, Give orders that these two sons of mine may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left in Your kingdom. The mother of James and John themselves approached the Lord and asked for the closest position to Jesus. Yes, undeniably, there are many of our desires that are similar to this. Desires which are full of ambition, the desires to be extraordinary, to do great things, to bring an explosive impact (exploits). To be successful in our modern understanding.
In the next few paragraphs, I will often use the word ‘maybe’. Maybe, to show the possibilities that could happen to help us better understand what is going on. Maybe, because things themselves are not written in the Bible but they can happen. Try to follow me below to see everything in Matthew 20:20 further.
The ambitions of James and John
In this situation, James and John were represented by their mother who came directly to the Lord asking for this matter. Maybe James and John were afraid to say it on their own, maybe this was also the desire and ambition of their parents. Didn’t the mother of the children of Zebedee say, give orders, that these two sons of mine … my children! Could we look at (another) Zebedee’s perspective here? In Matthew 4:22, when his 2 sons who had been helping him work, now left everything including himself to go to follow this extraordinary young rabbi. We might think that he felt disappointed that moment by the fact that these two children abandoned him for a stranger. But the situation in Matthew 20:20 tells the opposite. Maybe Zebedee himself wanted the same opportunities his children received, even more than just being a disciple, but also to have the opportunity to be close to this great Person. He saw God’s call with the eyes of the world, with an ambition to be great. Yes, the state of Israel in those days was occupied by the Romans. And the political situation was like a ticking time bomb as it was just a matter of time until someone would step up to lead all of Israel to rise. Jesus even had a zealot who became His disciple, Matthew 10: 4. The Zealots were a group of rebels against Rome.
Perhaps you can imagine what happened before at Zebedee’s own house, there had been an argument to force their two children to come forward to convey this wish themselves to Jesus directly. Or when the Lord talked about how they would become in the future in Matthew 19:28, Zebedee and his wife were also present there listening to the Lord’s words. Wow, what a future for our children. Sitting on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel, they thought. In an instance, they looked at each other, and Zebedee cried out to his wife, ah, it should be more! Our 2 children must be on God’s left and right! Tell Him this right away. So in Matthew 20:20 AMP, then the mother of Zebedee’s children came up to Him with her sons and, kneeling, worshiped Him and asked a favor of Him. And He asked her, What do you wish? She answered Him, Give orders that these two sons of mine may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left in Your kingdom.
The worldly desires of the Zebedee family
Give orders! Grant my request, make a decree! I want James and John to sit on Your left and right, Lord. But Jesus replied, You do not realize what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink and to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? They answered, We are able. Matthew 20:22 AMP, they replied, “We can, we are able!.” Yes, they responded with enthusiasm. But in the original translation the word able here, does not give an assurance meaning, not a certainty. That is, their answer was that they just could, or, oh Lord, we could probably just will!. They realize they don’t understand the price they have to pay for their demand, but they don’t want to back away from the opportunity to achieve their ambition, the ambition of their father and mother. Jesus then said, Matthew 20:23, Ye shall drink indeed of My cup!
What happened next was, James was beheaded immediately after Jesus died on the Cross, Acts 12:2. But John became the last disciple of the Lord to die, not from persecution, but by old age. Yes, not because of persecution because he did not die after being repeatedly tortured. He did finally died only after being exiled on the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation in experiencing an extraordinary vision. So it is true when the Lord said, “you will indeed drink My cup. You will literally drink the cup of My suffering and be baptized into My death.”
“But to be the ones who sit at the place of highest honor is not mine to decide. My Father is the one who chooses them and prepares them.” The Lord continued in Matthew 20:23, The Passion translation. Verse 24 reads, the other ten disciples were listening to all of this, and a jealous anger arose among them against the two brothers, James and John.
If only the Lord did not take care of this situation right away, then even these 12 disciples would fall into dirty politics among themselves fighting for positions and power. Yes, that is what happens not only in the secular government of many nations and countries in the world but also in God’s churches. Servants of God also fight each other over power, position, and title. For the higher their position, the greater the offering they could desire. The higher their position, the bigger their potential to be invited to many events. The more popular they are, the more respect and appreciation they will receive.
This is what the Lord said in verse 25-28 (Indonesian translation), But Jesus called them and said: “You know that the governments of the nations rule their people with an iron fist and that the princes exercise their power violently over them. This is not the case among you. If anyone wants to be great among you, let him be your servant, and whoever wants to be prominent among you, let him be your servant. 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.
In a different translation, it is said like this, the King and those who have great authority in this world rule by oppressing their people, like a tyrant. But this is not your calling. You have to lead by a completely different model. For the greatest of you must live as one who is called to serve others, because the greatest honor and glory is reserved for those who are servants. For the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by all, but to serve everyone, and to give His life in exchange for the salvation of many. “
Talmidim is the Hebrew word for disciple. The Talmidim refers to those who follow their teacher, or their rabbi, wherever He goes. Those who would not only listen to and accept this rabbi’s teachings, but mimick and imitate his lifestyle. Additionally, because Jesus was a Jew, a Jewish Rabbi on His days, with 12 of His disciples who were also Jews, then the Lord’s words about serving were nothing new to them at all.
A talmidim follows his teacher wherever he goes. He practically lives together with his rabbi. Eat together, sleep together. Not in a sexual sense, but in one house or one place. Do everything together. And during their time together, the rabbi demonstrates his teachings through his words and actions in life. A talmidim will serve the rabbi in all matters. Starting from when the teacher wakes up until he goes back to sleep. He will be served fully, assisted in all kinds of day-to-day affairs by the talmidim. When they walked together to go to a place, a talmidim would act as bodyguard, servant, butler, porter and accompanying the rabbi.
So the Lord said that the governments of the nations rule their people with an iron fist and that the princes exercise their power violently over them, Matthew 20:25, He continued saying, this is not the case among you, your calling is different. Yes, those who become His disciples, become His talmidim, they understand that they are called to serve. It’s a principle they understand very well and once again the Lord makes it clear here, you have to lead by a completely different model. If anyone wants to be great among you, let him be your servant, and whoever wants to be prominent among you, let him be your servant. For the greatest of you must live as one who is called to serve others, because the greatest honor and glory are reserved for those who are servants.