Sunday, January 20, 2013

Matthew 20 - Instructing the Disciples about Grace and Ambition

LINK: Matthew 20

BACKGROUND

176. Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard workers: Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem and instructing His disciples. He further clarified about life in the the kingdom of heaven in the parable of the workers being paid equally. In it, every worker was paid a denarius (typical pay for a Roman soldier and equivalent to about a penny a day) for their work whether they started early in the morning or at 5:00 p.m. It is a parable that expresses that God's grace and generosity is extended to "latecomers" as well as those who have been around for a long time.  It is a story about envy on the part of the "early workers."  It was all under God's sovereign control and even those who labored for only one hour could be promoted above those who labored from sunrise to sunset. 

177. Jesus predicts his death the third time: Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34

He had already announced that He was to die and rise again on two previous occasions (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23). He was now on the road to Jerusalem, and He reiterated this point. This is the first time He spoke of His betrayal, condemnation, mocking, scourging, and crucifixion.

178. Jesus teaches about serving others: Matthew 20:20-28, Mark 10:35-45

The fact that the mother of the sons of Zebedee made the request have led some to believe that she was the sister of Mary because only a close family relationship would prompt such a bold request. Some also believe her request was at the urging of the two sons! Jesus instructed them that honor in the kingdom of heaven came with the price of suffering, and it was not His to grant but the Father's.  This teaching illustrates that the disciples had not yet grasped that "the way up is down" and that the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). You cannot have honor without humility. It also illustrates an ambitious desire for position rather than having the heart of a servant. 

179. Jesus heals a blind beggar and his companion: Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43

This miracle was performed as Jesus left the city of Jericho (Matthew 20:29) though He first encountered the men as He approached it (Luke 18:35). 

The Matthew account has two blind beggars, and the Mark and Luke accounts have just one. According to The Harmony of the Gospels"the second and third gospels single out the more vocal of the two" (p.170). These blind beggars called Jesus the Son of David revealing that they knew that He was the long anticipated Messiah. The religious leaders were blind, but these blind beggars could see. By the authority of God, He was able to heal them of their physical blindness.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

The story about the disciples seeking positions of honor reminded me about some people I have worked with who were in it for the glory, honor, and title they received for doing "the Lord's work." They treated everyone else like their underlings and only served for show when others were looking, leaving all the dirty work for those underlings. It was tough and heart-wrenching to watch. 

Are you looking for a position of honor as a believer or are you looking where you can serve? Jesus said that He did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Give your life away today by serving someone in an unexpected and uncharacteristic way. Maybe you can listen to someone's hurt and pray with them. Maybe you can do a service to a widow in your neighborhood. The possibilities are endless!

PRAYER

Lord, we praise You for Your grace that is unmerited and bestowed on us regardless of our labor but because of Your great love. Thank You that Your grace propels us to serve You in the harvest fields of the world. May we serve with no ambition for honor or glory other than glorifying You. We follow the example of Jesus. Amen. 
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