Greatness in Serving

Matthew 20:20-28

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.  And He said to her, “What do you wish?”  She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”  But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”  And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus 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. Yet 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 a ransom for many.”

Greatness Defined

  • Greatness is not being someone in a high position such as Chairman of the Board, President, Ambassador, the boss, etc.
  • Greatness is not one who has money, property, jewelry, education, position, or possessions of any kind.
  • Greatness is not being born to the position of greatness.  You do not inherit greatness. 
  • Greatness is not bestowed upon you by anyone or any act of your own doing except obedience to God’s Word, a Godly heart, and a humble and contrite spirit, and a yielded God-given peaceful attitude and disposition. 

Luke 9:23-25 – Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”

Luke 14:26-27 – If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Galatians 5:24 – And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Philippians 3:8 – Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

  • Greatness is of God.  There is no greatness other than that of God.

John 12:26 – If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

I Corinthians 6:20 – For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

I Corinthians 7:22 – For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.

  • Greatness conceived by men is superficial; it fades away.  Remember the old proverb or poem that someone wrote:  “Only one life, it will soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  This little poem on a wooden plaque had been my mother’s. I passed it along to Will, my son and her grandson.  It was the only thing that survived in the kitchen of his home when it burned.  Is that a coincidence or accident, or was God trying to say something?
  • Greatness is not dominion over people.  Note:  the disciples in this passage still thought the Messiah’s kingdom would be restored and it would be as an earthly nation and power.  The ten other disciples were indignant because they desired the highest positions themselves. They would have been worried, not angered, by such evil and selfish behavior if they had not had the same feelings.  Sound like anybody you know?  Maybe you at some point in your life…you were the one who deserved the promotion, etc.
  • The external view of the way we look at things:  our measuring stick is usually about power, fame, recognition, influence, authority, dominion, and/or position.
  • The internal view of the way we look at things is measured by wealth, buildings, vehicles, machines, and the ability to work and achieve goals.  The world seeks after these things.

I John 2: 15 – Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.

Matthew 6:33 – Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

Colossians 3:1 – Seek those things which are above. 

  • Greatness is serving others.  The great are those who minister to others. 

Matthew 10:42 – And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.

Matthew 20:27 – And whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. 

Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

Prov. 22:4 – By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.

Ephesians 6:7 – with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,

What price – greatness?

Jesus pulls no punches.  If we desire greatness, there is a price to pay.  A tremendous price.  If we wish to have the crown He gives, there is a bitter cup to be drunk and a baptism in which to be immersed. 

The cup of suffering refers more to what a person takes into himself and bears within himself.  It is more internal suffering and agony.  The cup means drinking the bitterness and agony of trials, pain, hurt, sorrow, heartbreak, suffering, disappointment, and tears.  Christ did this in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:36-46 -Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.  So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

The baptism refers more to what is put upon a person from the outside.  It is more external sufferings.  The baptism of suffering means being immersed in the rapids of affliction, rejection, abuse, ridicule, opposition, persecution, and martyrdom.  Jesus did this in the judgement hall, at the whipping post, in the denial of his disciples and the angry mob, and especially on the cross.

That is the reason Christ and the apostles met with so much opposition so often.  They gave all they were and had and lived so differently.  They lived for God instead of living for self and the world.  The world could not understand them.  Some ignored them.  Others ridiculed them, abused them, persecuted them, and even killed them. 

Micah 6:8 – He has showed you O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.