Jesus Serves | Matthew 20:17-34

March 22, 2015 Series: Revelation of the King | Matthew Part III

Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 20:17–20:34

Servant JESUS- Matthew 20.17-34 from Damascus Road Church on Vimeo.

INTRODUCTION

Good morning, and welcome to Damascus Road Church this morning. My name is Randy, and I am one of the pastors here.

We are currently working our way through the book of Matthew as a church, and today we are going to look at Matthew 20:17-34 together. So grab your bibles and open them up to Matthew chapter 20 with me.

Mat 20:17-34
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."

(20) 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.

(25) 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."

(29) And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" And stopping, Jesus called them and said, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened." And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

PRAY

Before we dive in to this week’s text, I think it’s important to first take a look at what’s been going on over the last few chapters in Matthew. It seems to me that this passage concludes a long stretch where Jesus is repeating the same lesson over and over and over again. Next week, we will shift to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem – and that will begin a new movement within the book of Matthew, as we move toward the crucifixion.

Here is a message that I see repeated again and again in this segment of Matthew, as we lead to Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem before his betrayal and crucifixion… Jesus is repeatedly saying, “I define greatness as something completely and radically different than the world.” Here are some examples:

Matthew 16:26 – for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
Matthew 18:3-4 – And [Jesus] said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
Matthew 19:14 – Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:21 – [to the rich young ruler] Jesus said to him, “if you would be perfect, go, sell all that you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.”
Matthew 20 – Laborers in the vineyard. The kingdom of heaven is where “the last will be first and the first last.”

We see that Jesus is trying to teach the disciples a lesson and that he’s repeating the same idea. This is a benefit of going through books of the bible verse by verse, isn’t it? If Jesus thought something needed repeating, we repeat it in our time together on Sundays. We aren’t all that much different than the disciples who, when told something by Jesus, seem to immediately forget what he said. I find comfort in that!

Though this passage continues on in the same idea that the kingdom of heaven will be radically different than this world, Jesus adds some texture or definition to it. He builds on the earlier emphasis. Remember that we saw “I define greatness as something completely and radically different than the world.”

What I see Jesus making abundantly clear in this passage today is this. He is telling us this: “I define greatness as something completely and radically different than the world. I will display my own greatness through humility and servitude – even to the point of death.”

That’s the big picture idea of today’s sermon – if you can grab on to that, I’ve succeeded in all that follows.

V17-19 – Jesus Predicts His Suffering
The disciples and Jesus are headed to Jerusalem, and it seems that the city is probably in sight now. Many are making their way to the city to celebrate the Passover. We’re told that Jesus takes the disciples away and seems to point to the city and once again tell the disciples what he had come to do.

(17) 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."

Jesus points to his own death and resurrection. Though this is not the first time Jesus has mentioned this to the disciples, it is the first time he’s indicated he would be crucified. This case is unique, in that Jesus reveals more detail about what will happen. To a Jew who knew his old testament, Jesus’ description of being MOCKED, FLOGGED, and CRUCIFIED would bring to mind texts such as Isaiah 50:6, Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22:17. This was the first of many times for the disciples over the coming days that the vivid descriptions of the Suffering Servant of the Old Testament would be coming to mind – with it likely occurring blow by blow during his crucifixion.

v20-24 – Competing for Honor in the Kingdom
We turn to verse 20, which starts off with “THEN.” This is added to connect these two segments together sequentially. We don’t know exactly how much time passed between one Jesus’ prediction and verse 20, but it seems that they likely happened fairly close together. Most likely, they resumed their walk for a short time before “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” approached Jesus.

(20) 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."

So Jesus has just revealed the anguish, the suffering, the shame that he would endure at the hands of his creation. Not being fans of awkward silence, the Zebedee family jumps in and asks Jesus if they can sit next to him in the Kingdom. From our perspective, this seems a bit ridiculous. This would be comical if it was not so sad.

Even worse, James and John send their mother to ask Jesus. At first, I was really trying to give these guys the benefit of the doubt. We know that they are two of the disciples whom Jesus had the most affection for, so perhaps they were just asking to be close to Jesus because they love him so much.

Here is a more likely reason. Jesus has been talking with them about his kingdom. My kingdom is like this, my kingdom is like that… it seems likely that the disciples were sensing imminence to all Jesus was talking about. That they would not have much longer until this kingdom Jesus had been telling them about would be a reality. James and John (and their mother) wanted to have the spots of honor in his throne room.

You may remember from Matthew 19:28-30 Jesus told them,
Mat 19:28-30 Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (29) And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (30) But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

They knew that they would have glorious thrones waiting in the new world – that part they remembered well. The part they forgot was at the end when Jesus tells them the first will be last and the last first.

The Cup of Suffering
(22) 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."

Jesus responds to this request. The Greek makes it clear that when Jesus says “You” that it is a plural pronoun – he is speaking to James and John, not just their mother. His response to them certainly corrects them, but it is less severe a reaction than you might have expected….

This shows us the failure of James and John. They were so consumed with basking in the glory Jesus they did not consider the need to share in his suffering. (REPEAT). Jesus makes it clear that they did not realize what they were asking for. He tells them that they won’t be able to drink his cup. That is to say, they are not prepared to suffer like he was about to suffer.

You have to admire the heart of James and John in that they respond to Jesus’ assertion that they won’t be able to drink the cup – saying “We are able.” Jesus then tells them ok – you’ll drink my cup. They do end up doing just that, as do the rest of the disciples. All endured significant suffering for the sake of the gospel.

Are we prepared to drink the cup of suffering? Do we think that we should drink the cup of suffering? We would be quick to soak up the glories of being honored… but I don’t know that we are prepared to share in His sufferings. We need to realize that the cup of suffering is not just for Jesus – or his disciples. Rather, it is for anyone who calls themselves a Christian.

1Pe 2:18-24 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. (19) For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. (20) For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. (21) For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (22) He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (23) When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (24) He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Suffering is never going to be sought after, but it also should not be avoided, as it is sometimes the cost of discipleship. (2 Cor 4:16-18, light momentary affliction)

Greatness in the Kingdom
(24) 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."

Jesus really drives home the point that he has been trying to make – really through all of the 33 years he walked the face of the Earth – but particularly in the preceding chapters. His design for the world is radically different than the way we know it apart from him.

What is the way to Greatness that the world teaches us? The world teaches us that the harder you work, the farther ahead you’ll get. It teaches us that the key to being happy and content in life is to fill our homes and lives with stuff. It teaches us that greatness is something to be fought for, grasped for, sacrificed for, and that if we attain it that status, life will reach a point where it’s nothing but sipping piña coladas on a tropical beach. It’s people like Donald Trump – win at all costs, take what you can, step up by stepping on others.

We are somewhere in the era that is post-Garden and pre-2nd Coming. The world is broken. Sin has altered the way that we relate to one another so that it is completely twisted… beyond recognition for how God intended it. This way that Jesus teaches us to relate to one another is a huge aspect of him building his kingdom here on earth. Greatness through servitude. This is a kingdom teaching. This is how things were in the Garden of Eden – and it will be how it is when Jesus comes back to restore all things.

Let’s look at a passage from Revelation 7 that gives us a sense of what things will look like when Jesus restores all things to how they should have been. When we read these verses, underline things that are being done by one to serve another.

Rev 7:15-17 "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. (16) They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. (17) For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

The Kingdom of God will involve us serving God – and it will also include Him serving his people. What an amazing thing that is – that God would desire to serve his people for all eternity. Oh, is He not glorious!?

Now, I could go on talking about the sort of thing Jesus had in mind when he talked about greatness through servitude – but it will be better to read together from John 13.

Joh 13:1-15 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (2) During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, (3) Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, (4) rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. (5) Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him…

(12) When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you? (13) You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. (14) If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. (15) For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

There are a few quick points that we really need to make here. There are massive implications for this idea of being GREAT trough SERVING others. We have a real significant opportunity to reflect this amazing heart of God in the world around us in how we approach our relationships with other people.

a. Implications for Work
b. Implications for Marriage
c. Implications for Parenting
d. Implications for our Church

V29-34 Jesus Heals Blindness
(29) And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" And stopping, Jesus called them and said, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened." And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

Jesus and the disciples move on and resume their trip toward Jerusalem. We have gone through multiple accounts of miraculous healings already, so I suppose it’s not surprising that He’s done it again… even if it is no less amazing. There are two things that really grabbed me about these verses.

First, Jesus is on his way to face rejection, humiliation, beatings, and death. Remember this is done at the hands of men whom he loved with an intensity that you and I could only imagine, and also it is ordained by His Father. As he walked, he was probably thinking about all of this and yet, he stops to heal two blind men who are – speaking fleshly – totally irrelevant and unimportant. So much that they are rebuked for reaching out to Jesus for help. If my kids call me to their bedroom after bedtime and I have to walk the 30 feet to their room, I can get really frustrated… I should be more like Jesus.
Secondly, there is an interesting comparison to be found between James and John and the two blind men Jesus healed. We see that Religion leads to blindness, and Faith leads to Sight. The disciples had an amazing level of access to Jesus. They saw him heal people regularly, they witnessed Peter and Jesus walking on the water, they spent their days and nights walking with, eating with, talking to, and listening to Jesus for three years! Of all the disciples, James and John were two of Jesus’ favorites. There may have been nobody on the face of the earth who had spent more time with Jesus than them. Of all the people that you would expect to have it figured you, it would be these two.

Contrast that with the blind men sitting by the side of the road. They hadn’t seen anything – they were blind. They didn’t know Jesus. They had no first-hand knowledge of what he had done. They very likely just sat by the side of the road asking for money or for food from people walking by.

Isn’t it interesting that those who were sitting in the place of great privilege were missing the heart of Jesus, while the blind men appealed to exactly that – his heart. They say Son of David, have mercy!

Jesus says whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.

Conclusion

There is a problem with all of this, isn’t there? The problem is that we will not live according to God’s design for our lives without an intervention. On our own, we lack the capacity to be great – as Jesus counts greatness. Our problem is sin. The scriptures are clear that the wages of sin is death – and that every one of us is guilty.

Jesus, in the ultimate act of humility and servitude was risen up on a cross. Willingly, he bore the shame of the cross for all who would follow him.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news! He’s not looking to build his kingdom using the elite of the world – rather, he is looking for ordinary people like you and me to live lives transformed by the power of the gospel… radically different to the world around us.

 

More in Revelation of the King | Matthew Part III

March 15, 2015

Generous Jesus | Matthew 20:1-16

March 8, 2015

Jesus and Wealth | Matthew 19:16-30

March 1, 2015

Jesus and Children | Matthew 19:13-15