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.”
History and Context:
The book of Matthew does not actually name an author, but Christian tradition from as far back as we have has claimed Matthew's authorship. The author was clearly a Jewish Christian writing to a main audience of Jewish Christians. For this reason Matthew is careful to clearly lay out how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. He quotes the Scriptures much more than any of the other Gospel writers. Much of Matthew is very similar to Mark and therefore scholars believe that Matthew drew on the book of Mark for material. The believed date of writing was somewhere around 80 AD but it could be anywhere from 50 to 100 AD.
Just a few verses before this teaching, the mother of James and John, Jesus' disciples, came to Jesus with a special request. She wanted allowance that James and John could sit at the right and left of Jesus in heaven. The other disciples all began to look down at James and John for asking one of these things and Jesus calls their attention to a teachable moment. He gives them a bad example of leadership, the Gentiles. The Gentiles way of leadership was to "lord it over them" and to "exercise authority", they would be proud of their status as leader and look down on those under them. Jesus said that this is not the way of the Kingdom of God. Often the way of God's kingdom does not make sense in the world's eyes. Jesus said that we have to humble ourselves and become servants and slaves in order to be great. He then ends by reminding them that He, the Son of Man, already did that very thing.
Are you in leadership? Learn to serve those under you. Are you not in leadership? Learn to serve those around you. Wherever you are God is calling you to serve. In God's kingdom no one is too great or too dignified to do the lowly jobs of service. All of us should follow Jesus example rather than the world's example. The ministry has often been treated like a business. You start out earning your dues by cleaning and vacuuming and whatever other chores may be around, then after you have been there a while, you start to move up the ranks. Then finally you get to a point of leadership and can force all the newbies to do all those lowly jobs of service. This is not how the kingdom of God works. The kingdom of God shows that the leaders need to be the greatest servants of them all. In Bible school there was a teacher named Brother Smith. Whenever it rained you found him waiting at the door with an umbrella running out to everyone and meeting them at their cars so that they wouldn't have to walk in the rain. Then as his class all rushed to their seats Brother Smith was mopping up the rain and mud that got tracked into the hallway. Only after he was finished mopping would he come in and begin his class. That is Biblical leadership!
Lord, give me a heart to serve! Help me to see the needs of those around me and reach out to them. Help me to see them in your eyes and learn to act out in love and service. Help me to lead by this example. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!