READING MATTHEW 20
A great story has a character bent on a goal no matter what, to the point of death. The Gospel story is like that. Jesus is ready to enter Jerusalem and do whatever it takes to redeem Israel and bring the world along in this redemption. He stops his disciples along the road and tells them what’s coming:
“Listen, we are going up to Jerusalem. Someone will betray me to the most important priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn me to death. Then they will give me to non-Jewish men who will laugh at me, beat me with whips, and nail me to a cross. However, I will rise from death on the third day!” (Matthew 20:18-19, IEB)
Could Jesus be any more clear? I think even if we were with him, we’d have a hard time fathoming the gravity of what was about to happen, and like the disciples, we’d be in denial.
As you read Matthew 20, watch how Matthew sandwiches a parable between a repeated statement you don’t want to miss: “people who seem unimportant now will be important later. People who seem important now will be unimportant later” (19:30; 20:16). One thing the parable reveals to those who have ears to hear is that seemingly important people are going to not only deny that Jesus is the Messiah, but the very people who think they are important to God are plotting the death of the Messiah.
Next, we know James and John are sons of Zebedee but we don’t get their mother’s name, yet she’s in this story. They had also been known as “Sons of Thunder.” Maybe they got their “Thunder” from their mother, because she comes to Jesus asking that her sons get a big contract, signing bonuses, and front row seats in the new kingdom.
Although the other disciples heard all this and became indignant with the two brothers, Jesus delivers leadership wisdom the disciples (and we) most need:
“You know that the rulers of the world lord it over their people. Important men use their authority over them, but you must not think that way. Instead, if one of you wants to be great, that person should be your servant. If one of you wants to be important, then he should be your slave. I did not come to be served. Instead, I came to serve and to give my life to pay the price for many people’s sins.” (Matthew 20:25-28, IEB)
For many years our church has been in fellowship with a group of servants on the streets of Denver, and they call themselves Dry Bones Denver. They taught us a vital lesson hanging out with people on the streets of Denver. They taught us a corollary to the teaching of Jesus not to lord it over people. The corollary is, “Put power under people.” This is a more active way to say “empower.”
Like the young people on the streets that Dry Bones loves and serves, so the last two guys in Matthew 20 clearly illustrate the kind of people Jesus is looking for to populate his kingdom, and they call upon the name of the Lord as he’s walking up to Jerusalem. “Son of David, have mercy on us!” They are blind. Jesus asks them what they want. “We want you to heal us, let us be able to see again.”
Jesus feels sorry for the two men, and he touched their eyes. Immediately they could see again, and they followed Jesus into Jerusalem. The so-called important people won’t be important in the kingdom Jesus brings. The people everyone thinks are unimportant will be important in the new kingdom of Jesus.
Lord Jesus, have mercy on all the staff and friends of Dry Bones Denver, and their whole world. Help us not seek to be served but to serve, like you.
To answer the question of this blog, “How can I be important?” Jesus says if you want to be important, become a servant like he came to be. Go to Dry Bones Denver and support them with donations, putting power under them to continue serving. My bio photo below was taken on a Dry Bones Denver trip.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg’s wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.