A CLASH OF POLITICS
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you …. nations will come to your light” (Isaiah 60:1, 3a). Thank you Lord Jesus that your love embraces all peoples!
Read MATTHEW 20:17–28
Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time
17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
A Mother’s Request
20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21 “What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.
23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 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.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
God summons us to serve others in humility and to renounce our desire to seek our own way and advantage. May we accept his call.
No passage of Scripture indicates the contrast between the politics of the world and God’s reign more than today’s reading. Our passage begins with Jesus’ third explicit prediction of his forthcoming humiliation in Jerusalem.1 Jesus says again that he will go to Jerusalem, he will suffer at the hands of Israel’s leaders, and he will die and rise from the dead. Readers discover that he will be delivered to the Gentiles who will mock, flog, and crucify him. The empire of Rome will exert its muscle and deal with the upstart Galilean, Jesus – vividly illustrating the way ‘the rulers of the Gentiles’ lord over and exercise brutal authority over those under their rule (v 25).
Only Matthew mentions the role of James and John’s mother, who is possibly Salome.2 Her behavior – seeking prestige for her sons (and consequently herself) – was consistent with imperial politics. For example, Nero’s mother Agrippina had Claudius poisoned to ensure Nero was made emperor. She then tried to make Britannicus emperor (leading to both being killed by Nero).
Jesus did not grant the mother’s request (that is left to God). Instead, Jesus gives his disciples a lesson. God’s appointed Ruler, Jesus, does not subjugate others or demand their servitude, but serves them, even to death on the cross.3 Those he chooses to lead are bidden to follow his example. Greatness is not gained through political intrigue, military dominance, and the trappings of power, but is found in voluntary self- humbling service of others. God’s leaders are even prepared to serve to death (as many experienced in Nero’s persecution of the Roman church). God’s people take up towels and crosses and follow Jesus.
Read John 13 and Philippians 2:5–8. Consider your attitude to others. Are you serving or being served? Pray for the strength joyfully to serve others every day.
Lord, in the passage I am reminded that to suffer and serve are the marks of a true disciple. I can only embrace this truth with your grace and strength. Thank you Lord.
1 See also Matt 16:21; 17:22,23 2 Cf Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40 3 Phil 2:8
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