“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. . . .” — Matthew 20:28
The story in our reading today often makes me laugh—mostly because of how uncomfortable it makes me feel. I wonder if James and John put their mom up to this task, or if it was her idea. I’ve had parents ask for some pretty interesting favors for their kids, but nothing compares to this. And when Jesus asks James and John if they could handle the challenges he would face, they are all for it. But they really have no idea what they’re talking about. The other disciples’ response is eye-opening too: they were “indignant with the two brothers.”
Jesus doesn’t let this moment go to waste. He uses it to teach about being a servant. Though the world prizes money and possessions, leadership and authority, Jesus’ way of doing things flips that upside down. The first will be last, and the last first—so we are called to serve rather than to lord it over others. Serving people is key to what it means to be a disciple in Jesus’ kingdom.
Jesus doesn’t hesitate to use himself as the prime example. If anyone ever qualified as having authority, it is Jesus: Son of God, healer of all sorts of illnesses, with power over life and death, authority over demons, and much more. Jesus tells his disciples that he has not come to be served, but to serve.
If Jesus came to be a servant, then we, his followers, are called to be servants too.