“I am”, is here with you – The one who ‘was from the beginning is now and will be for ever’. I want you to consider that fact. ‘I am” became as a lamb – the originator, the Creator of the universe, who holds the power of 1000 million atom bombs – became as a lamb the most docile and dependent of all the animals. I became a lamb and willingly submitted to being slaughtered on a cross shaped altar. I did it for you and all else in creation who come to me for redemption. Think how incongruous that is – the mightiest figure – becomes the weakest – on your behalf. So that you can benefit and receive My power from on high. The lion becomes the lamb. Consider this picture because it underpins the whole of my relationship with the world. It has a direct effect on you and all others of the “Way” – because to receive and live in My power – you too must become like a lamb. That is why I have said the last will be first in the kingdom.”
Back to Matthew. At the end of ch 20 we have a story of Jesus and two blind men. In Vs 33 they ask Jesus, “Open our eyes” and He does that. This small description of a miracle of sight rounds off a theme in Matthew which has started in ch 18 already, where the disciples are pictured as arguing over who is the greatest. This background theme is essential to understanding our Christian faith, our attitude towards God and towards one another.
The theme follows Jesus reply in 18:4; “Whoever humbles himself like this child – this one is the greatest in the kingdom”. The next three chapters show how this attitude plays out in real life for the Christian. I don’t quite know how to say it but Jesus is showing that everything about Christianity is directly opposite to what we would expect in real life. There are a number of different stories which illustrate how this attitude affects our lives as Christians.
It is summarized in 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first last“. That statement leads then directly to Jesus’ comprehensive prediction of His coming death in vv 17- 19. Immediately after that, we gasp as the mother of Zebedee’s sons asks Jesus to promise her, that these two sons be chosen to sit at Jesus right and left hand in paradise. Has she heard nothing? We should not be too hard on her though since this merely reminds us of what our normal worldly attitude is. The disciples merely reflected this. They had clearly not understood a word of what Jesus has been teaching.
Matthew puts Jesus’ great mission statement, right after this, ending with vv 26-28. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life – a ransom for many”.
This must have been a profoundly difficult concept for the disciples to understand, no wonder they struggled with it. Even today, when we have heard this many times, it goes against the whole grain of our lives. That is why the story of the blind men is crucial. To really understand this upside down concept, we need our eyes to be opened supernaturally. Not only once but continuously. We are faced daily with the need for us to live this way in every situation.
This week, I have been pondering how I should practically internalize this teaching. The leader must start at the bottom, not demand obedience as the gentiles do. To lead by becoming the least and by serving demands two things. Firstly a grasp of how this plays out in our lives in every situation. Then, secondly we need God’s Spirit to remind us and empower us. Why not make this a basis of your prayers, not only for yourself but for others as you pray for them. In that way the Kingdom will truly be spread.