Greatness in the Kingdom

There is an enemy of humanity, Satan, whose purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy. Jesus has introduced a new kingdom with values and ethics that lead to His glory, our good and human flourishing.

How do we live in the fallen, compromised kingdom of darkness as citizens of the kingdom of God according to this new life-giving ethic?

The problem is that our natural default position is to do the opposite of the values of Jesus’ kingdom.

In the West, everyone is on a quest for greatness. Greatness has become a cultural idol. In Matthew 20:17-27, Jesus does not rebuke the quest for greatness.  There is nothing wrong with seeking greatness. The issue is how one defines greatness. In this passage, Jesus sets a new paradigm for greatness.

Matthew 20:20-21 says, “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you desire.” After Jesus was teaching to the disciples, Salome, the mother of James and John comes up to Jesus to talk about her children. Jesus asks her, what do you want. When God asks you a question in scripture, it is not for information, it is for your reflection.

Her request was, she said to Him, “Say that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine shall sit, one at Your right, and one at Your left.”

In those days, much like today, the closer to the head of the table the more power you had. Salome wanted Jesus to recognize, to give status to her kids.

His answer was, “But Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit at My right and at My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

The answer was not just for Salome, James, and John but to all the disciples. He is trying to help them understand what the Kingdom is all about. Their idea of the kingdom is about leveraging power. They see Jesus as a conquering leader.

The gospel says that your identity is not in your status or what you can do, but in the Savior and what He did for you. Let us look at four ways to leverage our quest for greatness for His Kingdom:

  1. Actively pursue humility

Jesus’ response to Salome’s request is calling them to pursue humility. The Greek word for humility in this passage means dirt.

It is important to understand that there are many things in our lives that are outside of our control, that should give us more humility. Everyone struggles with the gratitude entitlement continuum. One day we are grateful people, we thank God for His providence; the next day we are entitled, believing that we deserve everything we have and want.
Entitlement has become part of our culture. Some signs that people are living an entitled life are:

– You cannot take constructive criticism
– You cannot apologize to others
– You do not rely on God through prayer

John 15:5 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

The command the Bible gives is to “humble yourself,” in other words, do things that lead to humility.

  1. Understand suffering is part of the Christian life

In the response to Salome’s request, Jesus mentioned the cup as a metaphor for suffering. Jesus is communicating to them that following Jesus is not an easy thing to do.

Christians follow in the footsteps of the one who was beat, spit on, and hung on a cross. We do not follow him because He makes life better, we follow Him because He is better than life.

The world will hate us simply because we bear the name of Jesus. We are to live out truth for His glory, our good, and human flourishing.

  1. Seek to honor authority

Verse 24 shows how all the disciples struggled with authority. Seeking humility leads to obedience to authority. Here are some warning signs that show you struggle with authority:

– You tell people who you are
– You expect special treatment
– You expect praise
– You are callous to hurting people

  1. You serve others

Your faith will never take off until you learn to serve others. God calls us to love Him and love people and the best way to demonstrate that love is with actions.

Pastor Chris Williams
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