Read Matthew 20:17-34
It seems just when the disciples think they have the hang of it, Jesus brings up this stuff about going to Jerusalem and being killed.
Just when it seems like the teaching is all making sense, Jesus pulls the rug out from under them with this information about him being handed over the Chief Priest and the Teachers of the Law who will condemn him to death.
To make matters worse, the Gentiles will abuse their Master and ultimately crucify him.
The Romans? Really? For decades the Jewish people have been looking for a Messiah who would come and give the Romans what for, and now Jesus is telling his faithful followers that the Romans will nail him to a cross.
The disciples would surely rather rack their brains figuring out problematic parables than have to hear this death of their Master story one more time. This does not fit into their comfort zones.
But it does come with a promise. On the third day after their Master’s crucifixion, he will be raised to life.
For the disciples, Jesus is alive now and it would be just fine with them if that part never changed. They are told but once again do not understand.
And then somebody throws a hornet’s nest into the middle of the 12. James and John the sons of Zebedee come before Jesus, giving him the honor that he deserved, and mom makes a special request.
You know, Jesus, these are not just ordinary fishermen. These are the sons of Zebedee—the Sons of Thunder. In years to come, Zebedee will be named in the Bible, and you know that usually means that a person has some distinction, so his sons should have special places for them as well.
In Mark’s gospel, the two brothers ask for this special privilege. In Matthew’s account, mom makes the request. In both cases, the other disciples hear about this and puts everyone into turmoil.
Jesus clarifies that even though the disciples will endure much of the suffering that he will, what they are asking for is solely the prerogative of the Father.
Then he gets to the heart of the matter. He talks to them about their worldliness. He says that you are using a worldly model for heavenly things. You want to take the rules of the world and apply them to the Kingdom of God.
That dog don’t hunt.
This world is all about power and prestige and promotions and privileges and parking spaces and that’s a lot of P’s without any carrots.
Jesus tells his followers it is about having the heart of a servant. It is about taking what God has blessed you with and serving others.
Jesus reminds them again that he will die, but not just an ordinary death, but a death that would pay the ransom for their lives.
Jesus cam to serve and to sacrifice so as to severe sin’s chokehold on us.
We have heard this before in teachings and parables. The last will be first and the first will be last. This time Jesus makes it personal for himself and for his disciples.
Can you drink the cup that I drink?
Can you serve and sacrifice as I have?
Are you willing to be everyone’s servant?
These are hard questions that asked the disciples to make commitments beyond what they could understand, but Jesus affirmed that these men would serve and sacrifice.
They were trapped in a worldly, self-gratifying mindset for the time but the time would come when they would adopt the model and mindset of God’s Kingdom.
If you were to continue reading this account in Mark’s gospel, you would come to the story of Blind Bart. In Matthew’s gospel, we come to the story of two blind men.
The men in both stories knew to address this Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of David. Jesus healed the blind men in both accounts. Each story is a little different in explanation. One seems to be strictly mercy and compassion and one more about faith, but let’s look at the Son of David.
He could have been about his business. He was, after all, on his way to the cross. What’s one more blind man in the context of eternity?
But Jesus came to serve and to sacrifice.
On this day, he served. He healed. He did what he challenged his disciples to do, be servant of all.
The people who gathered around Jesus didn’t think these blind men needed to be slowing down Jesus, but we see Jesus stopping to serve.
Jesus tells his disciples that he is on his way to a gruesome death and he tells them to be the servant of all, then he shows them that service and sacrifice are not in conflict.
So the questions that survive to this century are:
Are we willing to drink the cup of sacrifice, whatever form that might take in our modern world?
Are we ready to be the servant of all?
Are we willing and are we ready?