8th March 2023
SEEKING PRIVILEGE AND POWER
The prophet Jeremiah spoke a word that was at odds with what the people wanted. The word which Jeremiah spoke was not his personal opinion but the divinely inspired word which God commanded him to speak. Jeremiah met stiff opposition and even threats to his life for speaking God’s word. Jeremiah pleaded with God when others plotted to not only silence him but to destroy him as well. Jesus also met stiff opposition from those who opposed his authority to speak and act in God’s name. Jesus prophesied that he would be rejected by the religious authorities in Jerusalem and be condemned to death by crucifixion the most painful and humiliating death the Romans had devised for enemies who opposed their authority.
Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” (Matthew 20:17) a prophetic title for the Messiah which came from the Book of Daniel. Daniel was given a prophetic vision of a “Son of Man” who is given great authority and power to rule over the earth on behalf of God. But if Jesus is the Messiah and Son of Man prophesied by Daniel, why must he be rejected and killed? Did not God promise that his Anointed One would deliver his people from their oppression and establish a kingdom of peace and justice?
The prophet Isaiah had foretold that it was God’s will that the Suffering Servant who is God’s
Chosen One (Isaiah 42:1) must first make atonement for sins through his suffering and death (Isaiah 53:5-12) and then be raised to establish justice on the earth (Isaiah 42:4). Jesus paid the price for our redemption with his own blood. Jesus’ life did not end with death on the cross he triumphed over the grave when he rose victorious on the third day. If we want to share in the Lord’s victory over sin and death then we will need to follow his way of the cross by renouncing our will for his will, and out ways for his way of self-sacrificing love and holiness.
Right after Jesus had prophesied his impending death on the cross, the mother of James and John brought her sons before Jesus privately for a special request. She asked on their behalf for Jesus to grant them a special status among the disciples, namely to be placed in the highest position of privilege and power. Rulers placed their second-in-command at their right and left side. James and John were asking Jesus to place them above their fellow disciples. Don’t we often do the same? We want to get ahead and get the best position where we can be served first. Jesus responds by telling James and John that they do not understand what they are really asking for. The only way one can advance in God’s kingdom is by submitting one’s whole life in faith and obedience to God. Jesus surrendered his will to the will of his Father he willingly chose the Father’s path to glory a path that would lead to suffering and death, redemption and new life. When the other ten disciples heard what James and John had done, they were very resentful and angry. How unfair for James and John to seek first place for themselves. Jesus called the twelve together and showed them the true and rightful purpose for seeking power and position to serve the good of others with love and righteousness. Authority without love, a love that is oriented towards the good of others, easily becomes self-serving and brutish.
Dear brethren, Jesus does the unthinkable he reverses the order and values of the world’s way of thinking. If you want to be great, then become a servant for others. If you want to be first, then become a slave rather than a master. The model of servanthood which Jesus presents to his disciples is based on personal choice and freedom the decision to put others first in my care and concern and the freedom to serve them with love and compassion rather than with fear or desire for reward. That is why the Apostle Paul summed up Jesus’ teaching on freedom and love with the exhortation, “For freedom Christ has set us free, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (for indulging in sinful and selfish desires), but through love be servants of one another” (Galatians 5:1,13). Jesus, the Lord and Master, sets himself as the example. He told his disciples that he “came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). True servanthood is neither demeaning nor oppressive because its motivating force is love rather than pride or fear.
The Lord Jesus asks each of us the same question he asked of James and John, “Can you drink the cup that I am to drink”? The cup he had in mind was a cup of sacrificial service and death to self even death on a cross. What kind of cup might the Lord Jesus have in mind for each one of us who are his followers? For some disciples such a cup will entail physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom the readiness to die for one’s faith in Christ. But for many followers of Jesus Christ, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations. A disciple must be ready to lay down his or her life in martyrdom for Christ and be ready to lay it down each and every day in the little and big sacrifices required as well. We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service of one another as Jesus did for our sake. Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?
Lord Jesus, make us servants of love for your kingdom, that we may seek to serve rather than be served. Inflame our hearts with your love that we may give generously and serve others joyfully for your sake.