Not So With You

One of my favorite verses in Scripture is from Matthew’s incredible account of Jesus’ response to a mother’s request. The mother of the Zebedee sons (James and John), later identified as Salome*, has one favor to ask of Jesus:

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor ‘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.’ Matthew 20:20-21

If the NIVAC* is accurate, Salome’s request isn’t really out of the question. She’s part of the entourage that’s been with Jesus since the beginning of his ministry. We find another clue in the previous chapter where Jesus tells them, “you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (see: Matthew 19:28).

Mark’s account of the scene (Mark 10:35-45) has James and John making the request themselves. The point of the story is not to focus on the requestor, but to emphasize the origin of the misguided thought.

Jesus makes it clear,

“You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’ Matthew 20:22a

In my imagination, the room becomes awkwardly quiet. If we were there during times like these, I think we could feel the weight of the moment even as the words escape our lips, “we can” (Matthew 20:22b). What once seems plausible now meets the ridiculous. But Jesus continues to speak with kindness from a position of great authority. The heaviness gets the attention of the other disciples, and it doesn’t take long for them to catch wind of the discussion.

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Matthew 20:24

The Teachable Moment

Jesus now has the attention of everyone in the group. All ears and eyes are focused on what he has to say.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must 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. Matthew 20:25-28

John would later capture a prime example of the Son of Man serving his disciples by washing their feet in John 13:4-6 before the Last Supper in the Upper Room. Jesus didn’t need to show another sign of his willingness to serve, but the significance put an exclamation point at the end of the statement.

The point of these examples and this discussion rests in just four words shown in bold above: Not so with you. Throughout the history of Israel, the people wanted to be like everyone else. “We want a king over us” (1 Samuel 8:18-20). From the days of Moses, God intended to raise a generation of people that were a distinct example for the world to follow.

I will make a distinction between my people and your people. Exodus 8:23

Standing in front of Pharaoh, Moses declared God’s intention that would follow the Israelites through history. We are to be different than the world around us. The world wants men to rule over them, but not so with you. Nations call us to accept standards imposed equally on everyone, but not so with you. Our society turns its back on the lost, the least, and the lonely, but not so with you. Not so with you.

We are to be a people that serve one another just as Christ came to serve. But the focus isn’t so much on serving as it is on not putting ourselves in the driver’s seat. Jesus’ example was to demonstrate how to honor God above everything else. Serving others is not meant to earn our way into heaven; we know this is not possible. Instead, serving others is our way of pointing people to Christ. Here I am serving you this plate of food, just like Jesus would do if he were here. Here we are washing your feet before supper, just like Jesus did in the Upper Room.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:14-5

Whenever we serve with this in mind, we honor Christ. Our posture of serving gives God the glory, not man.

I have many thoughts to share on this subject, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll hold them for later discussion at this point. My prayer is you will see those four words and take them to heart as you go about your day. We are to be a people that are distinct and separate from the world to point people to Jesus.

Not so with you.

I leave you with the words of Psalm 67.

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.


*Wilkins, Michael J. NIVAC Bundle 6: Gospels, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition. Later identified as Salome, she is among the women who attends Jesus at the cross and witnesses the empty tomb (cf. 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1). The best clarification of the listings of the women identify Salome as the sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother (cf. John 19:25). So she is Jesus’ aunt, and her sons, James and John, are his cousins on his mother’s side.


Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

My prayer is for you to join me on this journey. Subscribe to this blog below to get an email when a new post is available.

Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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