Matthew 20:20-28 (NIV) 20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21 “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” 24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We all want what is best for our children. While we may have their best interests at heart, we don’t always know what is best. The mother in this story wanted her kids to succeed, but she didn’t have the path to success correct in her thinking. Success, as Jesus pointed out and as we have talked about constantly here, has to do not with ascending to power, but descending to serve.
I want to focus your attention on the very last verse, verse 28. Jesus said, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a RANSOM for many.”
In this verse, Jesus equated serving with paying a ransom or price. We may think of serving as volunteering or as signing up or helping. Jesus said serving involved a ransom. What did He mean, and what does it take for someone to pay a ransom for another person’s life? Three words I want you to leave here remembering: LAID, STAYED, and PAID. Will you say those with me? Those three words give us a definition for what it means to provide a ransom for people who need one.
Let me be perfectly clear this morning about one thing: Jesus, God in the flesh, the Son of God, came to earth, lived a sinless life, and died on a cross to pay the price for the sins of all people because all of us needed to be ransomed. God didn’t sent Jesus to die so Jesus could be listed in the Guinness Book of World records. It wasn’t about pulling off the world’s greatest stunt. God wasn’t looking to buy our affection with the blood of Jesus, but He absolutely was seeking to pay our ransom whether we choose to accept the redemption or not.
You see, Jesus, the Suffering Servant came because God SAW that we were incarcerated. Sin had us enslaved. Each of us is born a sinner. We don’t have to like that reality. We can think it’s unfair that Adam and Eve’s sin was passed on to everyone who was ever born, but the minute we think we would have made a different choice than they did had we been given the same opportunity as they had in the Garden of Eden, we are right back to the problem they exemplified in that we think we can be perfect on our own, without God. Isn’t that the sin Adam and Eve committed? They became their own source, trusting in their instincts and insights rather than in the commands of God. Romans 5:12 makes it quite clear: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”
Jesus described it this way in John 8:34, “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” God clearly saw the situation. We were enslaved by sin and there was no way out. Perhaps you have seen those movies where someone is tied up or chained up and there just happens to be a piece of rusty metal within their reach or their happens to be a way to start a fire to burn their ropes or there happens to be a window that is big enough to crawl through that the captors failed to think about, and the person who is tied up, bound up, and enslaved somehow manages to get free. Remember the MacGyver TV series? That man could get out of any restraints with a role of duct tape and a wadded up piece of gum and tin foil!
Listen, it’s not that way with our captor. There is no open door, no rusty pipe, no hidden key we can access to loosen our chains ourselves. It we have become free from sin, it hasn’t been because we dreamed up a successful escape plan, but it has been because Someone from the outside paid the price that was demanded for our release. Listen to me, there is no way out of sin except through the blood of a perfect sacrifice. Only Jesus’ blood will suffice as payment for our ransom.
I Peter 1:18 “18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
Seeing our need to be ransomed, Jesus did at least three strategic things in order to execute His plan and all involved SERVANTHOOD as part of the ransom.
First of all, He LAID aside His glory. Only someone with the attitude of a servant will willingly reduce themselves, will stoop down, will subject themselves to less than they deserve on purpose in order that someone else can become free from their captivity. You see, ransoming someone comes at great personal cost as you voluntarily choose to give up whatever it takes to pay for someone else’s freedom.
Philippians 2:5-7 describes it this way: “5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
We can never fully comprehend just how far Jesus descended, but think about God becoming man for starters. That’s quite a demotion, don’t you think? Think about going from the paradise of heaven to the brokenness and selfishness of earth. Think about going from being worshiped by angels to being mocked by humans. Think about going from calling the shots to obeying the Father’s orders. Think about going from a purely spiritual existence to a lowly fleshly existence. Think about trading royal robes of splendor for earthly rags to wear. Think about going from having angels do your bidding to having earthly rulers refuse to listen to anything you have to say. Think about going from a palatial existence in heaven to having no place to lay your head, no home to call your own. Have you ever thought about that? Jesus was a homeless person! Think about going from being recognized as God to being unrecognizable because you have been physically beaten and tortured. Think about going from a state of perfection to absorbing the putrid, heinous, vile, disgusting, filthy sins of the world into your being. Think about going from being at one with Father God to not hearing His voice anymore as you hung on a cross of shame. Think about it.
Jesus wasn’t vying for a spot on Survivor! He didn’t come to prove how tough He was. He came FOR YOUR SAKE and MY SAKE because without Him we were and are hopelessly lost.
II Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
And He did all of that laying aside of His glory so that you and I could become rich, so that you and I could be clothed in righteousness, so that you and I could be seated in power, so that you and I could have authority, so that you and I could be at one with God, so that you and I could have joy and peace, so that you and I could have healing and hope, so that you and I could escape the captivity and penalty of sin. Only a true servant would willingly trade places with the one who is incarcerated. Jesus did that for you and me. He emptied Himself. He laid down His glory because servants don’t seek any glory, but they seek to point people to God, the Father, and that’s just what Jesus did.
Not only do we see that Jesus LAID down His glory, but we see He STAYED on mission every moment of His life. If you are going to pay a ransom for someone you stay on mission until the job is completely done. You don’t negotiate a price, arrange a drop off and then walk off the case. There is a lot of effort and sacrifice along the way when you are on mission to pay someone’s ransom. You don’t start out to pay a ransom and then quit if it is costly or quit if it is hard or quit if it takes a long time or quit if the kidnapper is tough to deal with. I have never heard of a cooperative kidnapper, have you?
Sin is a relentless captor, but is no match for Servant Jesus whose blood breaks the power of canceled sin and sets all prisoners free! Think about how Jesus served on His mission, how He stayed with it day in and day out. The cross wasn’t the totality of His mission, but the culmination of His lifelong efforts to point people toward the love of God so that when the blood was shed they would want to be covered by it!
It wasn’t only about the cross, but it was about relationship. It was about healing. It was about liberating people from the bondage of the law. It was about reshaping people’s minds. It was about changing hearts. It was about transforming the culture. It was about helping people see who they really were in light of the perfect life He was living before them. It was about showing justice. It was about demonstrating mercy. It was about caring for those who were weak and tired and beaten down and oppressed. It was about modeling a better way of life. It was about preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit who would make the better way possible. It was about opening the way of salvation to all and not just to the Jews. It was about promoting peace. It was about commissioning people to be disciples. It was about empowering people with God-given authority. It was about educating people about what it meant to live as servants in the Kingdom of God. It was about showing us what true obedience to the Father looked like. It was about how spiritual wars against Satan and the temptation of the flesh are really won. Jesus came to die, yes, absolutely, but He also came for all of the reasons I just listed and more.
Can you imagine the job description the Father handed Jesus in heaven before He left? Only God Himself could pull of such a mission! I wish someone would have kept a detailed diary entitled “A Day in the Life of Jesus” where we could see moment by moment the responsibility, the humility, the physical extension, the giving of His time, the miracles that were no doubt done but didn’t make the book, the counsel He gave individuals, the miles He walked, the weary look on His face as He kept going because there were more people to impact, more leapers to touch, more people to heal, more sermons to preach, more oppressed to lift up, more crowds to feed, and more object lessons to teach. Can you even begin to fathom it? No one could fault him for the few times Scripture says Jesus withdrew to a quiet place to pray or sleep or just be by Himself. When He was awake, He was always on mission.
Have you ever thought of servant-hood that way; that one characteristic of a servant is that he or she is always on mission? That constant, consistent reach of love with the love of God is what it takes for many sinners to even begin to understand they are slaves to sin. Many people are bound and don’t know it. Jesus came to set the captives free, but He first had to help them understand they were in bondage! It was His messages of liberty, His call to repentance, His lifestyle of love, His acts of kindness that helped people see a disparity between who He was and who they were. Those who were willing to see Jesus for who He was were then able to see who they were not.
Many who had used the law as their measuring stick for perfection were able, in Jesus, to see a 3 dimensional standard rather than words on a page. You don’t watch someone go to the lengths Jesus went to and misinterpret those actions. Many may be able to twist the passages of the Ten Commandments to suit them and make them feel less guilty about their lifestyle choices, many may be able to lift verses out of context to make their sin try to look less ugly, some may tweak texts to give them the right to marginalize and manipulate people, but NO ONE in their right mind could honestly look at the life of Jesus and come to any other conclusion than He was the real deal, a servant on a great mission to change the world!
How about the way He stayed on mission with the disciples. How many of you know what it is like to feel like a broken record as you repeat yourself over and over again? How tiring is it to back up and re-explain and re-demonstrate the “why’s” and “how-to’s” for people who either weren’t paying attention or are just slow in gaining the understanding? How many times did He have to tell the disciples the same thing? How many times did they question Him, and yet He took the time to go over the playbook again?
Jesus wasn’t deterred by unbelief. He wasn’t deterred by persecution. He wasn’t deterred by hard-headed, hard-hearted people. He kept pushing forward. He was going to help as many as who were willing to see and receive the truth! He even died trying when on the cross, bloodied and disfigured, barely able to speak, hanging naked and disgraced, He demonstrated the whole mission again when He mustered enough breath to say, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Wouldn’t that sentence on the screen be a great life motto? Lord, may it be so of me that I will help as many who are willing to see and receive the truth! Is that your prayer today?
When you adopt the mentality that says you are going to be on God’s mission every day of your life and that you will stay with people for as long as it takes to see them through an illness, a rough patch, a relationship crisis, addiction recovery, or whatever in hopes of seeing them be restored and redeemed, you have become the kind of servant Jesus modeled.
Before I move on, let me remind you of the text where we see Jesus gave His life as a ransom for MANY. The word “many” wasn’t selective. It isn’t a pre-determined number of people Jesus would pay for or a certain kind of person He would redeem. What Jesus did, He did for anyone who was willing to be freed through His blood. He proved it not only on the cross, but also during His mission. It didn’t matter if the person was black, red, yellow, or white, whether they were corrupt or devout, whether they were rich or poor, prostitute or prominent city official, male or female, crazy or sane, He was on mission to minister to all people. True servants, aren’t selective about who they will reach with the love of Christ. In other words, it doesn’t matter who the one is in captivity, a person who is willing to pay a ransom will pay it regardless if the person is a homeless person with BO or is a person who has a PHD and drives a fancy car.
Not only do we see that Jesus laid aside His glory and stayed on mission, but we see He PAID the price for their ransom with His life. Jesus went to the extreme to ensure we would be free. He didn’t send a courier. He didn’t ask for a substitute. He made the payment Himself with His blood. Good thing, because He was the only ONE who could do it. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NIV) “5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men.” What if Jesus, the only One qualified, decided not to serve in the role of Ransom-Redeemer?
1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23 tell us that in the ransoming process, Jesus didn’t just free us from sin only to have us keep sinning or to have us live our lives for ourselves. No, the language used is that He has bought us with His blood. We belong to Him, and because we are free from sin, we are free to serve Him with our whole selves as well. We are free to join Jesus in the work of redemption through serving. And when you wholeheartedly follow Jesus, it is a joy to serve. You want to! You can’t wait to. It isn’t a burden to stack chairs, pick up trash, give money, cut someone’s law, or help teach a class. As you grow in Christ, your appetite for service will grow. If you aren’t living a life of service, perhaps you need to check your spiritual pulse this morning and make sure you are wholeheartedly in a relationship with Jesus.
The story is told of a gentleman visiting a slave market, who was deeply touched by the mental agony of a slave-girl, who had been delicately reared and feared that she should fall into the hands of a rough master. The gentleman inquired her price, paid it to the slave-trader, then placed the bill of sale in her own hands, telling her that she was free, and could now go home. The slave-girl could not realize the change at first, but, running after her redeemer cried, “He has redeemed me! He has redeemed me! Will you let me be your servant?”
That’s the genuine heart-cry of a servant of Jesus Christ. When we realize Jesus has redeemed us our love and devotion and life’s work becomes a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him as we serve others in His name. It’s a “want-to” and never a “have-to.”
There are people that God has gifted us to serve and given us influence over. Each one of us is called to a role. That neighbor you live beside is absolutely your responsibility to share the Gospel with. That girl on your dance team who is asking questions about life is absolutely your responsibility to share the Gospel with. That Facebook friend is absolutely someone you need to talk to about Jesus. That unsaved family member you have is absolutely your responsibility to share Christ with because God has strategically placed you in relationship to those people. How we go about sharing Jesus, the timing of those events, and with what approach, obviously need the Holy Spirit’s leading and prayer, and there may come a time when God releases us from certain situations because of a person’s hard-heartedness or antagonistic nature, but until He does, we must not conclude that sharing God’s love with our friends and family is someone else’s job.
Let me remind us all, when Jesus came, He came not only with words, but with a certain attitude and with the demonstration of action. He had the attitude and action of a servant. In just a few weeks on Saturday, July 20th, you will have an opportunity to pick from a wide range of service opportunities during CSI Saturday (Community Service Invasion) through which we will practically show people the love of Christ. Look at those opportunities with me right now if you will in your bulletin.
That weekend will be followed by VBS at the end of July where we will have the opportunity to minister to as many kids as you will invite and bring and play games with and teach and do crafts with and serve snacks to. See Cassie if you have questions about how you can help and come to the training meeting this Saturday morning. We will even feed your for coming!
In August we have our annual “Family Fun Day” where we put on a “back to school” carnival for the entire community in the side lawn of K-Mart. Everyone in this room can be involved in all three opportunities in some way whether you have arthritis, a limited checkbook or a busy calendar.
Jesus laid aside His glory because servants don’t care who gets the glory.
Jesus stayed on mission because ransoming people from sin, redeeming them, was the most important thing He could do.
Jesus paid the price of the ransom Himself, at great inconvenience and cost.
Are we willing to do the same? Are we willing to embrace the cost of serving?