SCRIPTURE: Matthew 20:17-28
A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
17 While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; 19 then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”
The Request of the Mother of James and John
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Craig Blomberg offers the observation and critique that “Jesus himself provides the perfect example of servant leadership (v. 28a; cf. esp. John 13:1–17). Few models are more desperately needed in an age of celebrity Christianity, high-tech evangelism and worship, and widespread abuses of ecclesiastical power for self-aggrandizement or, more insidiously, in the name of ‘attracting’ more people to the gospel—a ‘gospel’ that is thereby badly truncated. D. A. Carson observes: ‘One of the ironies of language is that a word like ‘minister,’ which in its roots refers to a helper, one who ‘ministers,’ has become a badge of honor and power in religion and politics.'”
Servant leadership has found its way into many other places in life, beyond just what we read about in Scripture. When I think of the supervisors and bosses that I have had over my secular career before entering God’s ministry, I have probably been witnessed to almost every style of leadership. And while each may have its own pros and cons, I have always found myself more loyal to the leaders who not only led by example but also those who exemplified the servant leadership style and were present with me during the good times and the more challenging ones.
Thinking in your own work experience, whether professional or volunteer, what kind of leadership style do you feel you respond to best? What kind of leadership style do you think you thrive in, whether as the leader or as someone being led?
Loving God, your Son came into this world to serve, something humanity would see as below someone of his claimed position as your Son. And yet, his actions and words came from a place of love and compassion for humanity and creation. Help us to embody that same compassion for all people, to lead with love and service, and to allow ourselves to be led with love and service by others. Amen.