Matthew 20:25-28 (NASB)
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 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.”
Luke 22:24-27 (NASB)
And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
Thousands of books have been printed on leadership over the past few decades. It seems that epiphanies are constantly being realized regarding “leadership qualities and attributes.” Companies across the globe indoctrinate managers and executives with the most popular theories. According to the latest fashion, the best leaders are motivators, visionaries, and communicators. Within the temporal viewpoint, worldly leaders are the “greatest.”
Throughout history, individual greatness has been associated with having an advantage over others. Our day brings new labels, but man’s values have always been the same. The strongest and most aggressive succeed.
However, Jesus turns the world’s leadership values upside down. In Luke 22:24-27, Christ explains to His disciples that Kingdom leadership is opposed to the world’s brand of leadership. The one who serves is the true leader. Jesus’ discourse was in response to His disciples’ argument on greatness. To understand the context of this discussion, it is important to know that the group was partaking in the Lord’s Supper on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion. It is also helpful to understand that He washed each of His disciples’ feet that evening (John 13:12-17). Our King was and is the ultimate servant.
Matthew 20:25-28 also echoes the premium that the Kingdom places on service to others. Although the setting is at a different point in Jesus’ ministry, the dialog highlights Kingdom greatness versus worldly greatness. Humility and placing others before self are Christlike attributes. And we should be thankful for this benevolence…for this is the Spirit that would have our Savior hand his life over to die for our sins.
As we examine God’s ways, we realize that the Kingdom operates through His holiness, sovereignty, and love. God’s standard is generated by perfection. His is a power that a carnal and lustful world cannot understand. Think about this…servant leadership will be the norm in the future age when Christ rules a new world. An all powerful and benevolent King will replace human notions of greatness…what a day that will be…
And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”