A Leader Must Be a Servant

The great violinist, Niccolo Paganini willed his marvelous violin to city of Genoa on condition that it must never be played. The wood of such an instrument, while used and handled, wears only slightly, but set aside, it begins to decay. Paganini’s lovely violin has today become … More


Jesus certainly did all He could to prepare His disciples for His death (vv. 17-19). For the fourth time we find Him telling them that He is going to die (12:30; 16:21; 12:22-23; and 20:17-19). He also tells them in this passage how He is going to die on the cross. However the disciples gave no indication that they understood.

Instead of understanding about the cross they seemed to be more interested in a crown (vv. 20-23). It seems that Salome, the mother of James and John, wanted the seats of honor for her two sons in His kingdom.  As a typical mother, she felt her sons deserved the best locations. Jesus said that they did not realize what they were asking for. He indicated that they would one day share the same cup of suffering and death that He soon would partake of. As a matter of fact, James became the first apostle to suffer martyrdom (Acts 12:2) and John later in life is thought to have been put to death on the Isle of Patmos.

When the other ten disciples heard about the request by James’ and John’s mother, they were angry (v. 24). Probably they were sorry that they had not thought of it first. Being aware of the friction within the group Jesus called the twelve together and reminded them of some important principles. Greatness in the Lord’s kingdom was not to be able to rule over others but in being a servant (vv. 25-28). The person who wants to be first among you must be willing to take the lowest position of all and give up his right in order to serve others. No one ever mistook Jesus for anything but a leader, and yet He came to serve, right up to the time He performed the ultimate service by giving His life so that we might not have to die.


When I was growing up what did my parents want me to be? What did I want to be? How does this differ from what this passage of Scripture teaches?

Matthew 20:17-28 (English Standard Version)

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day." Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" They said to him, "We are able." He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at 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 exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

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