Focal Passage: Matthew 20:20-28
As I am writing this, we are in the midst of the
Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays. With this season comes a flood of commercials
aimed at enticing us to assert our self-esteem and self-fulfillment by
purchasing their “unique” products. One particular commercial came on the other
evening. A wife had worked hard and saved to purchase her husband a new car.
With a pretty bow on it the grateful husband is almost in
tears with joy, gratitude and pride for this sacrificial gift on the part of
his wife, until … a rival manufacturer’s car drives by and the present suddenly
becomes meaningless and hollow.
The implication is that his wife’s gift is just not good
enough, regardless of its newness or efficiency. Today’s text deals with the
attitude that wants more at any cost.
A mother comes to Jesus asking for the promotion of her
sons; promotion to the right and left side of the Messiah in His kingdom.
Can they do what must be done; suffer whatever must be
suffered, etc? “Of course,” they respond. And they will, but, positions are
given by the Father, not the Son. Then, the others hear the discussion, and
they are resentfully indignant.
It has been observed by one writer that “Today the first and
greatest commandment is ‘Thou shalt love thyself.’” Any problem, any personal
difficulty or relational disagreement comes not from sin, but low self-esteem
or the prevention of affirming one’s self-esteem. Marriages dissolve because
one of the partners feels squelched or restricted by the other.
Sadly, this is not a recent development.
Augustine writes in his City of God: “Two cities have been
formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of
God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former,
in a word, glories in itself. The latter in the Lord.”
A very troubling movement in today’s church has been the
promotion of the minister as sole authority and ruler of the congregation.
Many churches have suffered because its pastor stands as
lord and leader.
Rather than model the Lord’s ministry in terms of
servanthood and pastoral shepherd, this minister redefines ministry as authoritarian
(his sole authority) and vengeful (the Word becomes a savage blade against any
Yet, hear Jesus’ response to His disciples’ indignation
towards the sons of Zebedee: “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! (emphasis mine). Whoever would be great among you must be your
servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (20:25-27).
Oh that we would hear the word of the Lord!
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