LEAD by SERVING and SERVE by LEADING: 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." (Matt 20:25-28)
As Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem to give Himself as a ransom for the sins of the entire humankind, the mother of His two disciples James and John came to Jesus with an unusual request. Knowing full well that Jesus would not turn down any request, she requested that both her sons be given the prime seats, very next to Jesus on both His sides, in the kingdom of God. What she did not realize that this was an impossible request – for God the Father was to be seated on the left hand of Jesus after His resurrection (Romans 8:34b). We can well assume that both John and James and their mother were more preoccupied with status than serving. They had missed the whole point of Jesus’ leadership!
Jesus then expounds to His disciples His style of leadership that was totally opposite to the worldly leadership. What Jesus wanted from His disciples then and us today is that we ‘lead by serving and serve by leading’. The greatest among us must display true ‘servant-leadership’. As we grow in leadership, our rights, options and privileges should decrease.
The term 'ransom' refers to the price paid to deliver someone from slavery or imprisonment. Jesus gave His life a ‘ransom’ for many. His death satisfied all God’s righteous demands against sin. The price of freedom from sin and condemnation was Jesus’ life, given for us (1 Pet. 1:18, 19). Since the elect are ransomed from the wrath of God, the ransom was offered to God Himself. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath (v. 23), not for His own sins, but as the means of ransoming many.
In light of Jesus’ own example—particularly in giving up His own life as a “ransom for many” (v. 28)—we can observe that ‘servant-leadership’ means:
- seeing ourselves as called by God to serve/lead others.
- knowing intimately the people we serve/lead.
- caring deeply about the people we serve/lead.
- being willing to sacrifice our own convenience to meet the needs of the people we serve/lead.
Let us clearly understand that in the kingdom of heaven, greatness is manifested by service, and Jesus the perfect example of lowly service. The measure of greatness is not position, power, or prestige; it is service. Jesus came into the world not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. The whole purpose of the incarnation of Jesus can be summed up in two words—serve and give. It is amazing to think that the exalted Lord humbled Himself to the manger and to the cross. His greatness was manifested in the depth of His humiliation…and so it must be for us!
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil 2:3-4)