Matthew 20:22 – “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered. NIV
We continue the discussion of the sons of Zebedee and their mother with Jesus. They had the audacity to ask Jesus for positions of power in His kingdom. By worldly standards, they had every right to ask; but Jesus informs them that they really don’t know for what they are asking. Then He asks them if they have the right stuff to be able to endure what He will have to face. Still not fully aware of what Jesus was talking about, they respond in the affirmative.
Jesus then informs them that they will indeed share the cup He is about to drink; but it is God-the Father’s call on who will sit in positions of authority in the kingdom. Evidently, the other ten Disciples were either in earshot or someone told them about this whole conversation, and they become indignant at James and John because they felt that they should have a shot at those positions, too. Teachable moment! Jesus sits them all down and says:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — 28 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.” (Matthew 20:25-28 – NIV)
Jesus’ expectations were certainly different than the world’s expectations! Whoever wants to be great (in God’s kingdom) must serve. He then explains (if they were able to hear it) that “His cup” was “to give his life a ransom for many.”
For those of us who follow Jesus today, are we following Jesus’ example and the Apostles’ example of serving and being willing to pay the price or count the cost for choosing to follow Him? Do we judge our success as Christians by worldly standards or Jesus’ standards? It’s not an easy lesson. These first Disciples did not really get it until after the resurrection. They were still arguing about who would be greatest in the upper room on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion!
Alexander Mack, founder of the Brethren movement in Germany, wrote these lines in a poem titled Count the Cost which would later become a hymn in the Brethren Songbook:
Christ Jesus says, “Count well the cost
When you lay the foundation.”
Are you resolved, though all seem lost
To risk your reputation,
Your self, your wealth, for Christ the Lord
As you now give your solemn word?
Into Christ’s death you’re buried now
Through baptism’s joyous union.
No claim of self dare you allow
If you desire communion
With Christ’s true Church, His willing Bride,
Am I willing to count the cost of following Jesus to the point I am willing to lay down my life in service for Him? What are the indicators of my growth in this area?