just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."Matthew 20:28(NASB)
Every Gospel presents different, yet complementary aspects of Christ's ministry and mission, and one important characteristic of Matthew's Gospel is the presentation of Jesus as Israel's promised Messiah and his role as King of the Jews, together with information about the kingdom over which He will rule. Jesus was initially sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, and the early chapters of Matthew record how He authenticated His messianic claims through signs and miracles, while teaching about His coming kingdom.
Once His ministry, mission, and messianic claims were rejected by the Jewish leaders in Chapter 12, Jesus knew that the kingdom of heaven He came to establish would be postponed and from that point, we discover a subtle change in His approach. Jesus begins to teach about the coming kingdom in parables and He also starts to prepare His followers for the disturbing fact that He would be betrayed, condemned to death, and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles where He would be mocked, scourged, falsely accused, and crucified.
Despite preparing His disciples for His forthcoming death and Resurrection, Christ's followers were filled with excited anticipation about the coming kingdom. As Peter pointed out... they had left everything to follow Him and felt they all were deserving of great rewards and high office in His government. The mother of James and John even asked Jesus to give her two sons places of high honour by His side. The disciples still thought of Jesus as their conquering King rather than God's suffering Servant Who takes away the sin of the world, and so... dismissing Christ's warning of His fast approaching passion, each developed his own specific expectation of their own, elevated position in the new administration.
But Jesus knew that God's plans for Israel and His Millennial Kingdom were to be postponed, due to national unbelief. He knew that before He would reign as King of kings on David's throne in the city of Jerusalem, He would be despised and rejected of men - a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Jesus also knew that as the Head of His Body, the Church, in a new dispensation, His followers would be required to follow His example and experience the same suffering and distress that He was to go through. He knew that those who followed Him would need to pick up their own cross and follow Him in the way of suffering and pain, problems and persecution.
Jesus needed to correct the flawed thinking of His followers, and so He called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. HOWEVER, it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
Israel had been chosen out of the sea of humanity to be the nation through whom God's prophesied Saviour would be born. They were also chosen to be God's witnesses on earth who were to teach the nations about the Lord and His plan of salvation. They had been instructed to be a light to the Gentiles and to bring others who believe into the camp of Israel. But rather than fulfilling God's call on the nation, Israel was influenced by their pagan neighbours and hankered after their ungodly government and materialistic attitude. For this reason, Israel was to be set aside for a season while God implemented a new dispensation and continued His plan of salvation through Christ's Body - which is the Church.
While the disciples would, indeed, be leaders in Christ's new administration (in the dispensation of grace) they were not to be like the Gentiles and rule by means of position, status, power, and prosperity. They were not to laud it over the people. They were not to base their success on such things as status or money. They were to be like Jesus, the Son of Man Who did not come to earth to be served but to be of service to others. They were to be a reflection of Jesus Who came to give His life a ransom for many - and like the disciples of Christ's day, these principles are equally applicable to all of us who are called by His name.
Genuine ministry is carried out for the benefit of others and not for one's own self-promotion. A true and fruitful ministry is not undertaken for what one receives but for what one can give to others. Godly leadership is not designed to serve one's own emotional satisfaction or stoke one's own personal ego but to be of service to others - as did Christ.
As God's children, we are not to mirror the world but be conformed into the likeness of Christ through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. May we never forget Christ's important words to His disciples and remember that whoever wishes to become great needs to take on the role of a servant, and whoever wishes to be first, should become like a slave. May we be ready and willing to live a life of service. And just as the Lord Jesus gave His life a ransom for many, may our lives become a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God for the sake of His Son - our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Loving Lord, I praise and thank You for Jesus, my Mighty Saviour and Servant King. Lord, today I pour out my life as an offering to You. I pray that I would serve You wholeheartedly and my service would bless those around me and be a witness to bring many to the knowledge of salvation in Jesus. Thank You that Jesus gave His life as a ransom for me and for all who would believe in His name. In Jesus' name, AMEN.