Although chapter 19-22 contain a lot of teaching, chapter 19 begins with the key phrase “When Jesus had finished saying these things…” which indicates that the following passage is narrative, not discourse. Chapters 19-22 describe events during Jesus’ journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.
The narrative found in chapters 19-22 builds on the previous discourse about humility by emphasizing the Godly value of serving others. These chapters are framed by descriptions and statements confirming Jesus as God’s Messiah. In 16:16 Peter has declared Jesus to be the Messiah, while in 21:1-17 Jesus is welcomed to Jerusalem as Messiah, and demonstrates his authority by clearing merchants out of the temple courts. The big picture message is that despite his majesty and authority Jesus’ life work is serving others.
In 20:25-28 Jesus lays out the fundamental principle by contrasting the motivations of citizens in the kingdom of heaven, and those outside it. Again Jesus has to address his disciples request for greatness (a link between the discourse and the narrative), and he does so by definitively stating that his disciples don’t become great by gaining authority, but through serving.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 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.”
It’s very easy for churches and individual Christians to resort to authority, rather than service. We serve the Creator of the universe, so we often expect people to listen to us because we proclaim His message. We want to change the behavior of people around us because they’re not living the way the Supreme God wants them to.
History is littered with examples of churches of all stripes who sought to change the world for God using whatever authority they could gather. Instead, Jesus calls us to serve. He calls us to put others’ needs ahead of our own.
But God doesn’t just want us scheduling our “acts of service”. He wants us to live lives characterized by service and in the process, to increase our humility.
We can see that the apostle Peter took this lesson to heart. 30 years later, he wrote in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” I’m sure Paul also had this idea in mind when he wrote in Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
I believe that selfishness and pride are at the core of most/all sins. Humility and service don’t come naturally. But they’re the basis of life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- It seems easy to think of atrocities committed over the span of history in the name of Christ. What examples from history can you think of that demonstrate the church’s call and willingness to serve?
- What opportunity to serve have you participated in that is most memorable or fulfilling to you?