Matthew 20:20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 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.”

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.”

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.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 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. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:20-28

Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, will be 40 years old when he takes the field for their next playoff game. He is, by NFL standards, ancient. Yet he still plays as well as anyone has. Whenever he is asked how he does it he says that he has learned, over the years, how to take care of his body. He is fastidious about his exercise and stretching regimen, his diet, his sleep. Amazingly, I read a quote last week where he said “I’m never sore.”

A lot of players might want to be like Tom Brady, but are they willing to put in that kind of work? Are they willing to go to the same extreme lengths to prepare and be prepared?

We could ask that same kind of question about any pursuit in life. Excellence doesn’t just happen. Natural gifts are wonderful but they don’t move beyond possibilities without being honed and exercised and used.

James and John want to sit in positions of honor next to Jesus. Matthew softens their request by having their mother bring it to Jesus but it is still a mouthful. The other disciples are appalled. They were angry. Why? Because they thought the request was impertinent? Maybe they wanted the same thing but were shocked that James and John said it out loud? Either way, the surprise here is that Jesus doesn’t get angry. He just tells it like it is.

There will be a price to pay – and Jesus assures the disciples that they will pay it. The price, the cup, will be suffering the consequences of self-giving love in a self-serving world. It will be facing rejection, humiliation, even martyrdom. Not to seek glory, but to serve and to live in the best interests of others. To join Jesus as conductors on the Underground Railroad helping people escape from the slavery of their misguided pursuits to the freedom of life in the Kingdom of God. Dangerous but worth it.

This text challenges me. I know how easy it is to be complacent and comfortable as a Christian living in the air conditioned, padded pew, world of the church. And I know how it feels when I am pushed, or I push others, beyond our comfort zones of beliefs, values, or actions. Pushed toward a place where we serve rather than being served, where we give rather than being given to, where we sacrifice “what will it cost me if I do?” to “what will it cost others if I don’t?”

Let us pray: Dear Lord, like gravity, we are inclined to seek the easy way out of many things. We might want glory and honor – whatever that looks like in our place in the world – without realizing what it is that we are seeking or whether or not we are willing to do our part. Let it be enough today that we simply shoulder the burdens that life puts before us with grace, gratitude, and the willingness to be helpful. To serve others. To do our part. Let that be enough. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


2 Responses to “Matthew 20:20-28”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Let it be enough today that we simply shoulder the burdens that life puts before us with grace, gratitude, and the willingness to be helpful. To serve others. To do our part. Let that be enough. In Jesus’ name. Amen

    A beautiful, simple prayer.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Amen – every day

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: