A sermon preached at the Hickory Grove church of Christ, Almo, Kentucky August 21, 2005 by Ron Hutchison

Our text for our lesson is taken from Matthew twenty, verses twenty through twenty-eight:

"Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom." But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said to Him, "We are able." So He said to them, "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father." And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

When one reads the New Testament and reads about the life of Christ, one of the things that stands out is that Jesus came to this earth to serve. In verse 28 of our text Jesus says, "the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." One of the things included in this service was giving His life as a ransom for many.

In our text, James and John's mother wanted her sons to have preeminence in Jesus' kingdom. Of course, she (like many of the Jews) was looking for an earthly kingdom where they would be delivered from Roman rule.  This would certainly be a normal response for a mother who wanted the best for her sons.  I think we can appreciate why she may have asked Jesus such a question. But Jesus told her she didn't know what she was asking.  Her conception of greatness was like the Gentiles determined greatness, which was lording it over others and exercising physical authority. But Jesus said this was not the way it was supposed to be among His disciples. Rather, greatness in His kingdom would be determined by service to others, not by exercising physical authority and control over others.  Jesus said in Matthew 23:11, "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant." Those who are greatest in the kingdom of Christ are those who serve others. They are "others-centered" rather than being self-centered. They experience real joy, not by ruling over others, but by putting others first. Joy has been defined by someone as "Jesus first, Other's second, and Yourself last." How foreign that is to the way a lot of people are brought up today. I am convinced that some people believe that they are the center of the universe, and that they were put on this earth for others to serve them.

But Jesus explains the depth of His commitment to being a servant. He came to give His life a ransom for many. That simply means that He came to die on the cross for you and me.  He paid the ultimate price.  Think about it. The Son of God, the creator and sustainer of this universe came to this earth to serve you. His death demonstrates His commitment to serve.


In John 13 and verse 3 beginning the Bible says,

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, "Lord, are You washing my feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this." Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, "You are not all clean."  So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, 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 should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

When Jesus took that towel into His hands to wash the disciples' feet, He was demonstrating the importance of service. Washing feet in the first century was a normal thing to do. It was usually done by the lowest slave in the house. When Jesus came to Peter to wash His feet, Peter said, "You shall never wash my feet!" Peter wasn't trying to be unkind to Jesus. In fact, he was admitting that he was inferior to Jesus. To Peter, who knew Jesus was the Son of God, it was totally unthinkable that Jesus would do the lowly job of washing his feet.  He just couldn't understand how he could allow Jesus to do that. But Jesus was teaching and demonstrating that true greatness in the kingdom of Christ comes through service even if it means doing the worst and dirtiest job that no one else wants to do. Jesus said, "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 should do as I have done to you." If Jesus the Lord and Teacher, humbled Himself and performed the act that the lowest slave in the household would otherwise do, then His disciples must follow His example.  Jesus said in verse 16, "a servant is not greater than his master." If our Lord was not above serving others, even in doing what may have been one of the lowliest jobs a slave could do, then neither are His disciples.

I want to point out that Jesus was not here binding foot-washing as a specific item of worship or service. He was using foot-washing as an example that Christians must follow in principle. The example may be followed in many ways, such as mowing the yard of an elderly person, taking food to a family who has lost a loved one, helping the needy in various ways, and other areas of service that we might think of.

Jesus' point is that a faithful Christian will be concerned with being a servant and will humble himself to do those dirty, menial, lowest-of-the-low jobs that no one really wants to do. Our Savior did not come to this earth to live in an ivory tower. One purpose of His coming was to demonstrate what real service is and how true greatness can be ours in His kingdom.

There's one more thing we need to point out and that's found in verse 17, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." True blessings do not come from serving self. True and lasting blessings do not come from being served by others. True and lasting blessings come from humbling ourselves in service to God and our fellow-man.  So if you want true and lasting blessedness and happiness in this life, then you must become a servant.


One area of service that we don't often think as of being service to the Lord is when we are at work -- when we're on our jobs. Paul deals with this subject in principle when he talks about the relationship between servants and masters. In Ephesians 6:5-8 he wrote, "Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free."

Jesus was the son of a carpenter according to Matthew 13:55, and He was a carpenter Himself according to Mark 6:3.  I wonder if you have considered that Jesus did not start teaching others until He was about 30 years old. Up until that time He worked, and He did hard work.  I assume He worked for His father, but He may have worked for Himself or others -- the Bible doesn't say, as far as I know. But it ought to give us some comfort when we read that Jesus "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15) when we realize that He worked as a carpenter most of His short life on this earth.  He knows what it's like to work. He knows what it's like to be on the job and to deal with other people in a work environment. He knows what hard, physical work is all about.

Work is a necessary part of life. When Adam and Eve sinned, and were driven out of the garden of Eden God told them, "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread" (Genesis 3:19). Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." And Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:8, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Realizing all of this, Christians should be the best employees on the job. We should be willing to go the second mile.  Paul tells us that Christians are not to serve "with eye service, as men-pleasers."  One of the things that you find out real quick when you get a job is that there are many people who are men-pleasers. They are good workers (good servants) when the boss is around, but when his eye is turned the other way they become slackers and try to put the work off on others. Christians can't do that and please the Lord.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23, "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men..."  Now this word "whatever" means everything that you do. There are no exceptions. Whatever we do, we are to do it heartily as if we are doing if for the Lord and not just for men, for in reality we are doing it for the Lord.  It is interesting that the word "heartily" is a compound word in the original language consisting of the word "from" or "out of" and the word which is translated "soul" or in some instances "breath" in other passages.  In other words, when we do something we are to do it from the soul, or looking at it in another way until we get out of breath.  That means we are to put all our effort (our very soul) into whatever we do. In fact, Paul describes it as "doing the will of God from the heart."  Now I know how hard it is to have this kind of attitude toward our jobs sometimes -- believe me I know --  but that doesn't change what God's word teaches.

Paul says we are to do our jobs, "with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free."  All the rewards our jobs may bring doesn't necessarily come in a pay check.  All the rewards our jobs may bring, no matter how much we may dislike some things about it, doesn't come immediately. We are going to receive from the Lord. We are going to be repaid for the service we have rendered in any realm and that evidently includes what we do at our secular job.

We have a couple of young folks in this congregation who are just beginning their teaching careers. I read something while researching this lesson that you might find interesting. A man told about his first day when he started to teach school. The principle told the entire faculty that there are three kinds of teachers: The first comes to work, does not really put much effort into his classes, does not really care about his students; he is just there to draw a paycheck.  The second comes to school and works hard until the dismissal bell but will not help with any activity when school is out.  The third works hard during the school day but also goes the extra mile.  He is willing to help students outside of class.  He helps with activities after school.  He is even willing to help on Saturday. Then the principle told the teachers that they would decide for themselves what kind of teacher they would be. And that's really the way it is with any of us in any job we have.  We have to decide whether we are going to have the attitude that "what I am doing, I am doing for the Lord, and I'm going to do it heartily," or not.  And if we decide that we are going to have the attitude that I'm here to please the Lord, no matter what I'm doing, then we will find that things will have a way of taking care of themselves. And even though there might still be things that I have trouble with in my job, I am going to be able to deal with them because what I am doing I am doing for the Lord. I am doing it to please Him not men.  I am doing it to serve others and not myself.

There are blessings that come with being a good worker. Proverbs 10:4 says, "He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich." We must realize that even when working in a secular job we are servants of Jesus Christ. And we must conduct ourselves as servants of Jesus. We must also realize that being a good worker not only helps financially, but there are other riches involved, like serving others and receiving reward from God for that service.

We can either honor Christ on the job or dishonor Him. The choice is ours. How we work determines whether Christ receives honor or dishonor. The next time you are tempted to just "get by" on the job -- the next time you are tempted to slack off -- remember you are working for Christ, you are serving Christ, even on that job.  You are not to serve "with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free."


Paul wrote in Philippians 2:1-8,

 "Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."

Paul urges us to be like minded, to have the same love, to be united and of one mind. Nothing is to be done through selfish ambition or conceit. Rather than this having this selfish ambition and conceit, we are to each esteem or consider the other person to be better than ourselves. And our mind is not to be on our own interests, but we are to be concerned about the interests of others.

Then Paul gives the perfect example of what he is talking about. He gives the example of Jesus. He reminds them of the humble attitude and disposition of mind that Jesus had. And then in verse five he tells us that we are to have the same kind of attitude and disposition. Before Jesus came to this earth He had glory and honor in heaven. According to John 17:5 Jesus prayed, "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." Jesus was willing to give up that glory and honor that He had with the Father in order to come to this earth as a servant and die on the cross. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." None of us will be able to understand and appreciate the riches that Jesus gave up to come to this earth and die for us until we enter heaven ourselves. Jesus was rich -- rich beyond measure -- rich beyond our wildest dreams -- rich with riches that we could never imagine. Spiritual riches.  But He was willing to leave all of that in order to take the form of a servant. 

The word bondservant literally means a slave or a bond-slave. A slave is totally under the authority of his master.  A slave was the purchased possession of another. A slave owned nothing.  Jesus voluntarily became a slave! He was not forced to do this, He did it willingly.  He emptied Himself of that glory and honor and riches that He had enjoyed with the Father before the foundation of the world. And the text says "He humbled Himself." It does not say that He was humbled. There's a lot of difference. His humility as not forced, it was voluntary. And the extent of His humility and His commitment to be a servant or slave was demonstrated by His obedience. He became obedient even unto death, even the death of the cross. The death of Christ on the cross was the absolute ultimate example of obedience and what it means to be a servant.

I know that it's not always easy to obey the Father's will.  It was not easy for Jesus to obey the Father and go to the cross. All we have to do to appreciate that is to see what He said in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-44).  But Jesus was a totally committed servant, and so He was obedient.

Have you ever thought about the fact that obedience means doing things that it's not easy to do? It's not easy to give up worldly things. It's not easy to live a life different than almost everyone else. It's not easy to stay positive in a job we may not like or that may not be going the way we would like. It's not easy to give up things we may enjoy that are bad for us. It's not easy to set a good example before those we live with every day.

But if we're going to follow Christ, we must understand that the path of obedience is not always enjoyable or easy. However, the end result of our service and obedience will be (according to Peter in 1 Peter 1:7), "praise, honor, and glory" in heaven. When we are able to see the end, then it is not so hard at the beginning.

Christianity is the religion of service. We must realize that Jesus taught us to serve. He demonstrated in His life what it means to serve. We must serve the Lord in our jobs, and we must look to the cross and what Jesus did to become a servant and follow His example.

In Hebrews 5:8-9 the Hebrew writer wrote, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.  Jesus set the perfect example of obedience as a servant of God. We must follow that example of obedience if we are to receive the salvation He promises. We render obedience initially by taking five steps.

  1. We must hear the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:17).

  2. We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (John 8:24).

  3. We must confess that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:37).

  4. We must repent of our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38).

  5. We must be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

When we take these five steps to salvation, the Lord adds us to His church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:41, 47), we become Christians and children of God.  We become bond servants of Christ. We then can begin to serve Him and our fellow man unselfishly and with all our heart.

[Note: If we can help you in your obedience please contact us at the email address on the Bible Study Web page]

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