Whoever Wants to Become Great Must Be the Servant
The scripture we would like to share with you today is Matthew 20:20-28.
It is often a parent’s expectation that their child will succeed in life. Many parents arrange many extracurricular classes and activities in an attempt to get their child into one of the prestigious schools, making a strong start means they will more likely to rise to the top.
She boldly prayed to Jesus, hoping that he will grant them a chance to be his right-hand men.
Today’s gospel sharing is about a loving mother who tries to help her son succeed. The mother of Zebedee’s sons and the two of her boys, James and John, bowed down before Jesus and asked him for one thing. Jesus was curious and asked her what she wanted to ask for. “Permit these two sons of mine to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Matthew 20:21 NIV Unlike other Jews, she certainly knew that Jesus had the identity of the Messianic King. Therefore, she believed that when Jesus receives his kingdom, her two sons will certainly rise with him. So she boldly prayed to Jesus, hoping that he will grant them a chance to be his right-hand men.
“Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?”
He asked her two boys, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?” Everyone wishes to be successful and prosperous, become the right-hand men of the Messianic King and govern tens of thousands of people. Therefore they responded straight away, “We are able.” Matthew 20:22
Jesus did not refer “the cup” here to any regular cup but the cup to redeem the world.
James and John had little clue as to what they are getting themselves into, because Jesus did not refer “the cup” here to any regular cup but the cup to redeem the world. What he was really asking was whether they are prepared to drink the Lord’s cup, to sacrifice themselves like the Lord, to experience all sorts of suffering, and finally receive the crown of life. Yet the disciples did not seem to understand, therefore Jesus explained, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right and at my left is not mine to give. Rather, it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” Matthew 20:23
Those who are willing to let go, humble themselves, and serve others, not those who are arrogant, are the greatest in the kingdom of God.
Let us all reflect: “Not to be served, but to serve” is an accustomed teaching—but in real life, do we live as James and John, desperately seeking power and wealth of the world, and forget that Christ wants us to humble ourselves and serve others?
Let us all pray: “Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to seek reward, except that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.” Prayer for Generosity, St. Ignatius of Loyola
When the other disciples heard about this—perhaps they were angry at the fact that James and John wanted to dominate—they were upset at them. Jesus saw that the 12 disciples were slandering one another, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you,” Matthew 20:25-26 he exhorted. The kingdom of God is not like rulers or officials on earth, where monarchs and ministers in power strip their citizens of their rights or kill them. Jesus reminded them that they cannot do that, instead, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” Matthew 20:26-27 He emphasized that those who are willing to let go, humble themselves, and serve others, not those who are arrogant, are the greatest in the kingdom of God. “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,” Matthew 20:28 Jesus bluntly said, he came here to save the world.