A Heroes view: I am Second!
Heroes always place their desires and their needs second. What actually makes superhero’s special is their willingness to give up everything to save those who couldn't save themselves. It was not their super power it was their willingness to put others first.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (Matthew 20:17-28)
1. How can we make our lives, lives challenged by service?
2. What does putting Jesus first and ourselves second look like?
3. When it comes to opportunities for service in the church, are you more apt to say “Yes, I will” or “No, I won’t”? Why?
4. Describe a time when someone served you in a profound way, doing something for you that you absolutely did not want to do. How did that make you feel?
5. Do you think James and John (the sons of Zebedee) knew their mom was going to ask Jesus this question? Do you think they put her up to it? Why or why not?
6. What kinds of things might have been on their mind that led them to make this request for greatness?
7. How is “greatness” defined in our culture today? What does Jesus say about true greatness?
What are some ways we can better serve together as a group? What are some needs we might look to meet?
How might you remind yourself daily of the character of Christ this week?
James and John were the sons of Zebedee (4:21). Their mother was not likely to be acting on her own here. Perhaps James and John were guilty of maneuvering for status and rank within the kingdom of heaven. The mother respectfully bowed down to Jesus, preparing to make a formal request. The person on a king’s right hand was his second in command, and the one to his left was third. The woman and the two disciples were assuming that greatness in God’s kingdom was based on status, rank, power, and authority. They also made the mistake Jesus warned against in 19:30-20:16: they were seeking to influence God’s bestowal of reward.
20:24. Somehow the other ten disciples heard of the Zebedees’ request. They were indignant. There was more than pure anger here; there was wounded pride. If the disciples had learned Jesus’ lessons on humility, there would have been no pride to wound. The ten were apparently sorry only that they had not requested the same privilege first. Jesus chose this opportunity to teach further on the true values of the kingdom of heaven, especially since all twelve disciples had exposed their prideful hearts.
20:25. Jesus called His students for another session in His classroom. He first showed them that their attitudes were like the Gentiles. “You know” drew on their own experience or common knowledge. In the unbelieving world, it is assumed that power and authority define greatness. The rulers and high officials were examples of worldly greatness. The way they demonstrated their “greatness” was to lord it over others and to exercise authority. Jesus was not criticizing authoritative or hierarchical structure but the “strutting.” Such behavior is born out of insecurity and pride. The person who “bosses” others around is trying to prove to himself that he is as great as he hopes. It is only an illusion, for such a person is actually fearful and weak.
20:26-28. With His words, “Not so with you,” Jesus is implying, “You are sons of the Almighty. What are you doing dabbling in these puny efforts at worldly ‘greatness’ when you could be experiencing true greatness.”
The “great” and “the first” bring to mind Jesus’ previous teachings in 18:2-4; 19:30-20:16. Jesus had compared the humility of a true follower to that of a child; here He compared such humility to that of a servant (diakonos) or a slave (doulos). The possessive pronoun your in both cases is plural, implying that the great believer is servant or slave of all fellow believers. This is equivalent to saying, “The first will be last” (19:30; 20:16), but Jesus’ words here were more graphic. The person who is truly great, by heaven’s definition, is the one who chooses an attitude of submission to others in the family of believers.
All of Jesus’ teaching assumes that true humility is based on a healthy self-image. Only the person who is at peace with his true worth in God’s eyes is able to act toward others without trying to prove his or her worth. Convinced of one’s self-worth, the believer is able to move on in an attempt to demonstrate the worth of others.
Jesus could provide no better model than Himself. Although the Messiah-King came with every right to be served, His purpose was to serve them. He gave up His rights and took on a responsibility He was not obligated to take. This responsibility would extend ultimately to our eternal souls, purchased by the sacrifice of His life as a ransom [a substitute] for many.