Intro: The glorious kingdom realm is God’s eternal domain; everything concerning the kingdom or dwelling within it belongs to the Lord. Therefore, God is free to pour his goodness and favor out upon his followers and leaders as he pleases. Scripture reminds us again and again, God views rewards for leadership from a very different perspective than the world. In God’s kingdom, a true leader is humble and quick to serve others—no task too small if God requires it—because he or she loves and values people the way God does. A genuine leader—as a follower of Christ—should model for others the proper attitude followed by humble action.
In our passage today, the mother of James and John requests the honor of her sons sitting next to Jesus in his glorious Kingdom. In all fairness to James and John, Jesus has just shared a previous teaching with his disciples about what to expect when the world is made new and he sits upon his glorious throne. Jesus tells his followers they will sit with him on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mat 19:28). All by itself, the vision Jesus sets forth in that verse sounds attractive (Mat 19:28). Yet, we find out in the verses that follow, such places of honor—ones greatly rewarded by the Father—are for those who suffer for the sake of righteousness (Mat 19:29-30). For the greatest, suffering and reward go together.
Matthew 20:20-28 NLT Jesus Teaches about Serving Others
20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked.
She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”
22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?”
“Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”
23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”
24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant.
25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Prayer: Lord, please groom us to be servant leaders for your kingdom. Help us to push away from worldly ambition, so we can bring glory to your name. In Jesus’ name. Amen.