Upside Down

Read: Matthew 20:17-28

You do not know what you are asking. (v. 22)

Last summer a pastor in Missouri berated his congregation for not giving him a luxury watch and other niceties. Although he later apologized, he evidently missed Jesus’ leadership memo: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (v. 26). The kingdom of God turns our entire world upside down. As Jesus gets closer to Jerusalem, the gap between the coming events of Holy Week and the disciples’ assumptions and aspirations could not have been wider.

For the third time in Matthew, Jesus says he’s going to die. This time he gets very specific, including the first use of crucified. He will be “mocked and flogged and crucified” (v. 19). Shockingly, these details don’t register in their understanding. In the very next verse, the mother of James and John asks Jesus to have her sons sit next to him in his kingdom (v. 20). She wants her boys to have the highest status among the disciples. The other ten got mad about it, but only because they all wanted to be the greatest (Matt. 18:1).

The kingdom Jesus establishes plays by different rules. Greatness comes through service (20:26) not celebrity. If we want to sit with Jesus, we will need to take on his status, who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). In doing so, he gave his life “as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28), including us. May we walk this week in the way of Jesus all the way to the cross. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, ask God for a servant’s heart.

About the Author

jon opgenorth

Rev. Jon Opgenorth serves as president of Words of Hope. Previously, he served for 18 years as senior pastor at Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa. In preparation for ministry, he received a BA in Religion from Northwestern College, and an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary.

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Jesus Wins!