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September 19, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”—Matthew 20:28 (NLT)
Have one of your parents ever embarrassed you in front of your friends? Maybe they revealed some cringe-worthy childhood story or played home videos that make you want to crawl into a hole. Or maybe they had a talk with the coach about letting you play more because you’re just such a special kid! Whatever your story is, I’m sure at some point your parents have probably cost you some cool points. Don’t worry . . . you’re not alone.
In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John cost them some major cool points with the other disciples. How? She asks Jesus to “please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left” (Matthew 20:21 NLT). Suffice it to say, the other disciples were a little angry over this stunt. But as embarrassing as this situation may have been—and should have been—for these supposed “sons of thunder,” it was an important moment with a very important lesson.
James and John were clearly seeking greatness and authority, to be leaders. But Jesus then proceeds to flip the script and reveal what true greatness in His kingdom is, what grants us true authority as His disciples: humble servanthood. He tells His disciples (us included), “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave” (Matthew 20:26–27 NLT). And He cites for them the greatest example of this being lived out: Himself!
You see, our Lord Jesus didn’t come to be like the other rulers of this world, who “lord it over their people,” who “flaunt their authority over those under them” (Matthew 20:25 NLT). Instead, He came to show us that true leadership is an act of service . . . and His ultimate act of service was giving His life as a ransom for us, to pay the insurmountable debt of death we owed by dying in our place. He came to show us that true greatness in the eyes of God is found in humility by bearing our shame and hanging on our cross.
So what does this mean for us? Well it means that every disciple is expected to serve. Often, we see serving as optional, but it’s not. It’s expected! It’s not a personal choice, but a divine command. Serving is indeed a calling . . . but that call extends to every person who claims to be a Christ-follower.
If Christ came to serve and give Himself up for us, then we too are here to serve. Remember, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message”(John 13:16 NLT).
For the believer, there is no such thing as spiritual unemployment or retirement from God’s Kingdom. Following Jesus means following in His footsteps, embracing a life of service to God and others, and using the gifts we’ve received for service (Romans 12:4–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; Ephesians 4:7–13).
But how do we do this? Well, we should be motivated by obedience (Deuteronomy 13:4), gratitude (1 Samuel 12:24), gladness (Psalm 100:2), humility (Galatians 5:13–14), and love (2 Corinthians 5:14–15).
When we consider everything the Lord has done for us, serving should no longer feel like a burden. Something is wrong if we can’t serve the Lord with gladness as we respond to His love and work in our lives. I encourage you to discover your spiritual gifts and then begin to discipline yourself to serve at your church.
With Christmas now in our rearview mirror and the new year on the horizon, I challenge you to make a commitment to the kind of leadership Jesus demonstrated: to “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 NASB).
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.