25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
This week, we are starting a new service for the summer on Saturday nights. We are basing what we do there on some core principles. One such principle comes from this interaction that Jesus had with His disciples in Matthew 20. A couple of the disciples and their mom (wow, that’s embarrassing) were trying to jockey for position amongst the team. It was a great privilege to be one of the twelve, but they also wanted to experience the greater privilege of being Jesus’ right and left hand men in the group. In their culture and their time, this was not an odd request at all. In fact, the power structure of their world was built on creating a network of relationships and then leveraging those relationships for more wealth and power. This is not unlike the culture we live in today. What you know is important, but who you know is far more.
Jesus, masterful as always, flips the whole idea on its head. The Kingdom of Heaven is not a hierarchical system of prominence and power, but a system of ever increasing sacrifice and service. Climbing down the ladder of “success” is actually the way to legendary status there. In the social strata of the Roman Empire, the slave was at the very bottom. The community of faith was intended to be a dog fight, not for first place, but last. After all, if there was any person who ever walked the face of the earth that should have been served by every human being on the planet every moment of their life, it should have been Jesus, the Son of God himself. Instead, that guy gave up everything for the chance to humiliate Himself for our good.
It’s insanity to me for us to see this call on our lives and then turn around and try to make church about us. We ask questions like: “Is it meeting my needs?” “Do I like these songs or would I prefer those?” “How does it make me feel?” And all the while, Jesus is crying out, “Look at me! Look at my example! I came to serve not to be served…do likewise.” Church is not a place for your needs to be met, but for you to meet the needs of others.
May we be those who choose to come together to serve, not be served, and to give our lives for each other. If you are interested in a place like that, see you Saturday nights this summer.