A Change In Administration

Introduction

In Six Parts

Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:25-28)

Jesus taught His apostles the difference between the models of leadership. He warned them against the model practiced by the nations, but exemplified the model they were to practice. The model of the nations was illustrated by two characteristics, that of a hierarchy of rulers, and a lording it over those under them. This is also known as the clergy vs laity model. The model Jesus illustrated for them, was one of service and humility. However, in time, the model of the nations became the standard for the institution of the Church.

The background for the above Scripture is important to note. Earlier in the conversation of Jesus with His twelve apostles, these words were spoken,

Matt. 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

With this promise of Jesus giving thrones to the twelve, upon which they will judge the tribes of Israel, they would have been in great expectation that the time for Him to ascend to the throne, as King Messiah of Israel, would have been greatly heightened.

After telling them the Parable of the Hired Laborers, He then took the twelve apart from the larger group of followers, and said to them,

20:18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

As had happened before, these words didn’t register with them. The only words that may have found their mark, was, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem.” They may have thought that this was the signal to them, that He was about to claim the throne of His father, David, and begin His rule of Israel from Jerusalem.

Apparently Salome, the mother of the sons of Thunder, James and John, may have thought the same. Having heard Jesus’ words of promise concerning her sons sitting upon thrones with the Messiah, she wanted to make a request of Jesus.

20:20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

As any mother would, she sought to gain an advantage for her children with the One who had the power to make it happen. Jesus had already promised the twelve, thrones upon which they would sit. The mother of James and John simply wanted her two sons to have the best ones. The best thrones would be situated on the left and the right of Jesus. She probably felt this was a reasonable request, considering how devoted her boys were to their Master.

In responding to this request, Jesus did not direct His answer to the mother, but to the two brothers, saying,
Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

Jesus first answers, “You do not understand what you are asking for yourselves.” The mother and her sons did not understand the full implication of what they are requesting. In their minds, they are jockeying for an advantageous position in the earthly kingdom and rule of the Messiah. Their thoughts were for worldly power and wealth. John Gill notes that in this request, the two disciples sought,
“to have the highest posts of honour, and places of trust and profit; to be his prime ministers; and, in a word, to have the greatest share next to him of worldly honour, riches, and power.”

They knew that they had already been promised thrones. They are just asking for the best seats in the house. They could see no harm in getting to the head of the line when it comes to sitting with the Messiah in His rule from Jerusalem.

For all of Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom, they still seemed to miss the point. The kingdom of the Messiah, contrary to the teaching of the Pharisees, would not be an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom, which would have a manifestation upon the earth.

When Jesus asks them if they were able to “drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”, He was telling them what was the cost of ascending the throne of the kingdom. However, they didn’t understand. Likely, in their own thinking, when He mentioned baptism, their minds would automatically go back to the baptism of John, a water baptism. They didn’t understand He was speaking of a baptism of suffering.

Their unthinking, but confident response was, “We are able.

20:23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

Jesus confirmed that they shall indeed drink of the cup suffering, and be immersed with the same baptism of suffering. Obviously He was not saying that they would experience the same suffering which He would. Theirs would be of its own kind, they would suffer for His name’s sake, be persecuted on account of Him, and eventually die for their witness of Him. Although they didn’t understand His answer, they assumed Jesus was giving them the green light for their request. However, He quickly followed this answer up with,

but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

Upon hearing the conversation between the two disciples and Jesus, the other ten became angered with jealousy.

20:24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.

This was the background for the opening verses of Scripture. Due to the request of the two brothers for positions of honor, sitting next to Jesus, the other ten were moved with indignation against the two. The desire for power, position, and glory in the Messiah’s kingdom, was the reason for the dissension among the twelve. This is the motivation for earthly, fleshly advancement. It is not the way of the kingdom of God.

Jesus then enlightens the twelve how His kingdom works.

Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:25-28)

Here, Jesus contrasts two models of leadership. The first model, is that of the Gentiles, or the worldly model. He says, “You know that the princes or rulers of the nations, subjugate and lord it over the nations. And those that are great, lord it over those princes.” Jesus states that the model of the nations is that of a hierarchy of rulers. He then says, “It shall not be so among you.”

Jesus then begins to explain His own model of leadership. It is a model that is based upon His own life. He tells them those who would be great (mega), let him be your servant (diakonos), and whoever would be first or the head, let him be your slave (doulos). Jesus’ point here is that the greatness of leadership is based on the idea of servitude. Jesus uses Himself as the ideal for this. He says,

20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

The model of leadership Christ established in His Ekklesia, was that of being a servant of the flock, not a lord or master over it. Peter echoes this in his first letter, when he says,

5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Here, Peter admonishes the elders to lead, not being “lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.” Those who lead God’s flock, are to do so not as lords over it, but are to lead by example.