November 1 (Daily reading: Matthew 20-21) The mother of James and John asked Jesus to give her sons the honor of sitting at His right and at His left in His kingdom (20:21). The other disciples were not happy with this request. Perhaps they were jealous and wished they had asked first! This was not the first time that the disciples had shown the characteristic of selfishness. They had earlier argued about who would be the greatest in the kingdom (Mk. 9:34).
Jesus used this occasion to give the disciples a valuable lesson on the true nature of leadership. His lesson centered around comparing the ways of the world with the ways of God’s kingdom. In the world, those who are rulers have authority over everyone else, and they “lord it over them” (20:25). Jesus said that it is different in the kingdom of God. He said: “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (20:26-27). Jesus knew, and it is still true today, that pride is one of the greatest enemies of those who serve in God’s kingdom. Paul understood the lesson: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).
Jesus then said something that made His lesson undebatable: He Himself, the Son of Man, had not “come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (20:28). He was the only person who ever lived on the earth who deserved to be served because of who He was. But He came as an example of the highest degree of service by giving His life for others. Paul got it right: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5, NIV).
– Al Gary