Theme: Christ, the Servant
This week’s lesson encourages us to examine Christ’s ultimate act of service for us.
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Once Jesus spoke specifically to James and John, he then called the entire group together and reinforced what he had already been saying, “But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:25-28). These are the verses I referred to above as linking up with the prediction of his own suffering in verses 18 and 19.
Sadly, this was not the end of the matter. We might think that the disciples would have dropped their feud at this point and that the fight for the chief place among them would have been forgotten. But this was not so. Apparently the conflict intensified and continued even into the upper room. For, if Luke is giving us an accurate chronology of this evening, we learn that even after the institution of the Lord’s Supper “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” (Luke 22:24). At this point Luke includes nearly the same words that we find in Matthew 20 about the kings of the Gentiles lording it over them and about the need for the followers of Christ to be servants.
It must have been at this point perhaps that the Lord laid his clothes aside, took a bowl of water and a towel and washed the disciples’ feet as a dramatic illustration of his teaching.
If we can learn from the disciples, we should learn that the desire to be foremost is so great in us that we can be maneuvering for prominence even as we come to the Communion service. We can be so caught up in thoughts of our own importance that we do not even hear Christ speaking. It is only when we become like little children that we can learn from Jesus, learning among other things what humility is and how it must function.
I want to go on the last of the three incidents in the concluding part of chapter 20. But before I do, I need to call attention to one of the most remarkable verses in Matthew, perhaps even in the entire Word of God. It is verse 28 of this chapter: “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.” The important word is “ransom,” the only occurrence of this precise form of the word in the New Testament.
To understand “ransom” we need to know that it is one of a number of related words that describe Christ’s work of redemption. There are other words too, words that are not related: agorazo, which means to buy in the marketplace, and exagorazo, which means to buy out of the marketplace so the object or person purchased might be set free. It is often used of redeeming or setting free a slave. But these are not the terms I mean.
Ransom belongs to a word group based on the root verb luo, which means “to loose.” In time a second word developed from luo to signify a “ransom price.” It was lutron, the word that occurs in Matthew 20:28. From lutron another verb developed: lutroo which always meant to free by paying the redemption price. From these last two words the proper Greek term for redemption came about: lutrosis. In the New Testament these words mean that Jesus freed us from sin’s slavery by his death, which is What Jesus is talking about in Matthew 18.
What illustration did Jesus use to emphasize the significance of service yet again?
What does it take to become great? From what source does greatness come?
Why is the development of the Greek word for ‘ransom’ significant?
How can you apply this lesson of service to your life.
We should learn that the desire to be foremost is so great in us that we can be maneuvering for prominence even as we come to the Communion service.