Matthew 20:25-28 Consider the contrast Jesus has made in these verses between the disciples’ expectations of the kingdom they supposed Jesus was establishing and its true nature; on how many different occasions does Scripture record that Jesus communicated this same teaching to the disciples? See also Mar 9:35, Mat 23:10-11, Luk 22:24-27. What indication does this give us about 1) this teaching’s importance, and 2) how contrary it is to our nature that it bore repeating so often? What examples do we have in the New Testament that the early Christians took to heart Jesus’ teaching here? See 2Co 1:24, 4:5, 11:20-21, 1Pe 5:3; cf. Rom 14:19, 15:2, Eph 5:21, 1Pe 5:5, and 1Co 9:19-23.
Do the ecclesiastical hierarchies that many people have come to think of as “Christendom” reflect more the nature of Christ’s kingdom described here, or the nature of the kingdoms of this world? Even if spiritual leaders profess to follow God and have an outward form of religion, if the nature of their rule is not that of a servant after the manner of Jesus’ own example but marked by “lording” and “exercising authority” over others, what do these words of Jesus teach us about whose kingdom they are really a part of? Cf. Mat 7:16; contrast Col 1:13. Did Jesus ever “lord” or “exercise authority” over others after the manner of the rulers of this world? We read that Jesus washed the disciples feet; do we ever read that He required them to wash His? Even though the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were looking to the Messiah for deliverance from the Gentiles, because the nature of their leadership was like that of the Gentiles, were they in fact standing with the Messiah against the Gentile nations, or with the nations against the Messiah? See Psa 2:1-3, Rom 2:24-25. Is it any different today for Christian leaders who also look to Christ for deliverance but whose religious structure and leadership are no different from that of the world? Think: are ministers to be CEOs of a business hired by a board of directors to grow the company, or servants of God to those who are lost, and who faithfully call people to repentance and reconciliation with God regardless of how many or how few respond?
What insight does Jesus’ contrast between the kingdoms of this world and God’s kingdom give us into how grievous it was for the people to ask for a king in the days of Samuel and reject the theocracy of God’s rule for the domineering rule of men? Consider that for hundreds of years after their entrance into the land of promise the people had no centralized government, and only needed judges to deliver them as they themselves turned away from God and He sent oppressors to chasten them back to righteousness. See Jdg 2. Considering how the rulers of this world lord over their subjects, why then would God’s people have wanted a king to rule over them after the manner of the world in place of the gracious rule of God? See 1Sa 8:19-20; cf. 1Sa 8:10-18. Is it any less grievous for Christians to seek political and religious leaders whom they can see to fight their battles so they do not have to trust and obey Him whom they cannot see to provide what He has already promised? Consider how very different a world it would be with gentle servant rulers with the nature of Jesus who didn’t lord or exercise authority over others: Should we suppose that such a kingdom is too weak to ever really work? Cf. Dan 2:34-35,44-45. What does the fact that we cannot conceive of such a thing really working in this world indicate about how much higher God’s ways are than our ways, and how little is our faith?
What ultimate example do we have of the greatest in God’s kingdom being the servant and slave of all? See Mat 20:28; cf. Phil 2:5-11. What example do we also have from among the apostles? Think: who by common consent do we consider to be the great apostle who wrote nearly half the books of the New Testament, and what was it about him that made him so great? See Act 20:34-35, 1Co 9:19-23, 15:8-10, 2Co 11:23-27, 12:15. In the eyes of the world, Jesus and Paul and those who would be like them are considered fools to throw away their lives as hapless servants to others; cf. 1Co 4:8-13. In light of eternity are they really fools? “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (Jim Eliot, martyred missionary).