26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. (Matthew 20:26; NKJV)
The disciples have demonstrated in the previous verses of Matthew 20 that we looked at earlier in the week their inability to see past the present. This selfish and worldly perspective was in stark contrast to the Heavenly and eternal perspective Jesus had. Further, selfish behavior of a couple cause strife and division within the whole. In that strife, the result is brothers in Christ pushing each other way but Jesus steps in and pulls them close. He pulls them to safety and He teaches. He explains the err in their thinking. What Jesus is looking for is not of the world. What Jesus is calling us to is a spiritual Kingdom, His Kingdom, and to be a good citizen of this realm will require a change of thinking and behaving.
After explaining what good citizenship isn’t, Jesus teaches that Kingdom Greatness is service. The word here is “diakonos” which is minister, servant, deacon. It is an attendant or a waiter at a table. The word may have come from dia and konis (dust) which is to say raising dust by one’s hurry in ministering (Robertson, p. 162). In your mind’s eye, imagine a busy restaurant full of patrons. Waiters come and go working hard to ensure all their tables are always receiving the best service. They are quite literally trying to be in the same place at once and it is hard work. No table is the same…different wants, different needs, different orders, different stages of dining. It is a lot of work and that is what the word diakonos…servant…means.
There are no openings in the Kingdom for bosses, only for servants.
There it is…Jesus’ leadership model for the Kingdom… “everyone serving everyone”!
But not just that. Jesus is not done. Jesus makes further distinction and emphasis. He moves on from qualifying good kingdom citizenship as service (which implies a level of freedom) into a much more severe qualification. Jesus the Christ is telling us that if we desire to be a good citizen of importance in the Kingdom, we must be a “slave of all” (Mark 10:44; NKJV). The disciples were seeing the world through fleshly perspective, but Jesus is talking about the spiritual.
This had to be mind blowing for them. They wanted to be first in rank, influence or honor. That mental picture doesn’t include them running around serving everyone but being served. That vision certainly didn’t include them being in bondage. In the first century, there was no lower status than that of a slave. So, it is understandable that it would be hard for them to compute but the bottom line in Jesus’ model was that they were going to have to take the lowest status willingly and make others’ welfare more important to them than their own. Humility was (is ) going to be the key. Not only is Jesus teaching that everyone serves everyone, He is also teaching that “everyone is a slave to everyone”! If we are going to rise in the Kingdom of Heaven than we are going to have to first stoop.
The beauty of all of this is that we can serve, and we can be a slave (denying ourselves and binding ourselves to Jesus and His work) in whatever role God gives us with whatever talents/abilities we are blessed with. God gives us the talents and abilities and the opportunities. In that, we have responsibility to sever and to glorify Him. In serving, we are leading for the sake of Jesus. There is no higher calling in the Kingdom of Heaven than that of service. It is good that we aspire for greatness in His Kingdom and in doing so we will humble ourselves and serve somebody with the ability God has given us.
Ability + Opportunity = Responsibility
Leadership = Service
We have a responsibility to serve!