Status Through Service (Matthew 20.20-28)

23 05 2006

[Included here are sermon notes from Sunday morning at Omaha Bible Church. Also included are applicational questions for further review and meditation (Col. 3.16)]

As it has been observed, the most radical teaching of Jesus is his radical reversal of greatness. His teaching was contemptible then and it remains contemptible now.

The problem does not come from a lack of information as to what the Savior taught, but in our execution of what the he wants! Perhaps a good way to understand this is to look at the implications of service and humility from a negative perspective.

Let’s consider eight biblical lessons about the dangers of exalting yourself.

1. It is NATURAL to exalt ourselves

It is simply natural for us as fallen humanity to look out for our own interests. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians that “no man hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Eph. 5.29). We are all always seeking to preserve and protect ourselves. This selfish string of self-exaltation prevailed in the garden, it prevailed in the Zebedee family and it prevails in us. Note that it is not the position that is the problem, but rather the preeminence! It is the selfish pursuit of self-exaltation at the expense of and in spite of the divine plan.


Notice Momma Zebedee here, she is affirming her son’s desire to be the best. This is an example of Momma not knowing what is best =^D.

This is a good encouragement and reminder to us to not always listen to everyone’s advice. We must all have the humility mindset, the Jesus mindset engraved in our minds that we would not be tempted to pursue self-exaltation at the expense of humility. Likewise it is a great reminder to always be encouraging others to be humble and Christ centered in their pursuits.

3. It is a REALITY among BELIEVERS

In case we think this mindset is limited to those in the household of Zebedee we are reminded in Mark’s gospel that the other disciples were “indignant” (Mk. 10.41). Probably because they did not think of this first!!

Knowing this is a problem for believers, consider the following diagnostic questions-

-Why do you seek what you seek?

-Why do you want a particular position?

-How do you currently use your position?

-Why do you really want to do what you do in the church?

We don’t want to be a Diotrephes, “who loveth to have the preeminence among them” (3 Jn. 9 KJV)


Jesus redirects their thinking here by asking if they really “know” what they are asking. For if they want the position they must pay the price (Matt. 20.38). They did not know what they were asking, but they knew what they wanted, namely preeminence.

Isn’t is good that Jesus does not answer all of our prayers the way we want him to? Consider how many times you have personally wanted something, perhaps with good motives perhaps with bad, but Christ in his wisdom declined. And now vindicated by time, God’s wisdom prevails!! What grace indeed!


Consider the effect of prideful self-promotion in the body of Christ. It distracts from the overall mission of drawing attention to our head, the Lord Jesus Christ! The body is to be humbly serving together for the harmonious amplification of the glory of God! When we pridefully insert ourselves into the limelight as the object of attention, we find ourselves competing with Christ for glory and honor. The church is not constructed to aid in idolatry but to destroy it, through the promotion of the divine agenda.

Pride will cause division and arguments, just as it did here (20.24). Consider also James 4.1-10 as a good diagnosis of the heart of man in this vein.

6. It is the Characteristic of the GODLESS

This is why some of the best leaders in the business community do not make the best leaders in the church. The leadership in the church of Jesus Christ is radically different then that of the average local business. And why is that? It is because the goal is that different! One seeks to exalt and glorify Christ and his greatness and the other seeks to promote and exalt self achievement and accomplishments.

Jesus basically is saying here, “Look, take everything you have been taught about leadership from the world and chuck it! My philosophy of ministry is radically different!” Christ’s plan is all about self-denial and humility by way of encouragement and serving.

How do you become a better leader? Read books on leadership? How about study Jesus. If your goal is Christ likeness then the choice is simple.

7. It is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what leads to TRUE GREATNESS

In the eyes of men greatness in through conquering, in the eyes of God greatness is through service!

If we are to be truly great in God’s eyes (really this is all that matters!) we must put on the apron of humility (1Pet. 5.5) and get to serving! We are to wear the same outfit everyday, just like Alice from the Brady Bunch! Serve, serve, serve!!


To say one is a Christian and not serving is a contradiction in terms. It is like saying am a human but not breathing! It is not possible! Christians are like Christ, therefore they serve!!

Notice Jesus says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” Here Jesus is touching back into the OT understanding of “Son of Man” this is Daniel 7.13 Son of Man talk. This is all about Christ’s deity!

Jesus came as a King who served; he put on the apron and washed feet! And not only this, but he gave his life, the supreme act of service. Christ is above us in so many ways, from prestige to power, but he stooped to wash feet and to bear sinners’ sin. Therefore in effort to be like Christ we must be serving. If we are not serving in the body of Christ we are not acting in concert with Christ and would have to question our heart’s affections, our lives, and even whether or not we are even in Christ, for Christ’s sheep are to serve.


Applicational Questions:

-1- So often a lack of “comfort” will prevent folks from serving. What is the ultimate goal in Christian service and where does comfort fit in with this?

-2- Identify some areas in the Gospels where you see Jesus Christ serving others. Discuss the lessons observed and remarkable nature of each in light of who he is.

-3- Read through James 4.1-10 and discuss the source of conflict.

-4- What is the biblical solution to this conflict?

-5- Identify some examples of your own selfish prayers not being answered in accord with your desires at the time. How have you seen God’s wisdom vindicated since?

-6- What are some inhibitors to service? In light of this passage what is the best way to deal with such things?

-7- Why should someone examine their faith if they are not actively serving?

-8- What is your area of ministry? Examine your motives for serving and commit it to regular prayer to have your service bathed in Christ like humility.