Matthew 20:17-34 – Humble Sacrifice Brings Glory


Jesus has already told his disciples of a new world and thrones that are coming in the future (20:28).  However, this is not all Jesus knows of the future.  Jesus is already familiar with the cost of this coming kingdom.  A cost He will have to pay.  For the third and final time in Matthews gospel, Jesus describes the brutal tortures that He will endure once they get to Jerusalem.  He will be delivered over to the gentiles by His own people.  He will then be mocked, flogged, and crucified.  These were the most horrific punishments available in the first century.  Yet, Jesus was willing to face them for the salvation of His people.  His sacrifice sets us free from sin, death, shame and guilt.  I am writing this entry on the eve of Memorial Day weekend.  Its significance is not lost on me.  We are here in America, and free, because of the heroic sacrifices of so many who gave up fortunes and even their lives for a greater purpose.  We are the recipients of the good they purchased with their blood.  They gave so we could have and enjoy.  Let us see the beauty of the gospel of Jesus in their sacrifice.  For this world is passing away, but the kingdom of God is eternal (I John 2:17).  Thanks to Jesus, eternity belongs to us.  It is our inheritance, passed down and given freely to us to have and enjoy.  Blessed be the name of the Lord Jesus.



Jesus is the light that came into this world of darkness to shine so that we could see (John 1:4-5).  The world of light is so different from everything we know and have been exposed to that it sometimes takes our eyes time to adjust.  We see this in the disciples throughout the gospels.  In this text, we see it in the request of the mother of James and John.  In all this talk of humble sacrifice she asks for places of honor for her sons.  Notice that Jesus does not condemn, but He certainly corrects her, and her sons.  Perhaps, like the other disciples who become indignant when they found out about her request, we can jump to conclusions about her motivations.  She had seen Jesus do so many miracles for others why shouldn’t she courageously make her request known?  Jesus lovingly looks past the mother and speaks directly to her sons, for the question was about them and ultimately from them.  In the upside-down world of the Kingdom of God, true greatness is not about receiving, but about giving.  Don’t act like the leaders of this world and build yourself up.  Instead, give your life by serving others.  In other words, be like Jesus.  This is what greatness looks like in eternity.

It is not by accident that a miracle account is given in this chapter immediately after this altercation with James and John.  We haven’t seen a miracle account since the beginning of chapter 17.  Why does Matthew relay this account to us while he has skipped so many others (19:2)?  He wants God’s people to see the truth.  He wants blinded eyes open.  He wants us to see Jesus for who He is.  May the compassion of Jesus reach us.  May we call out after Jesus in spite of the rebukes of the crowd (who will betray Him by weeks end).  May our eyes be opened to Jesus and His Kingdom.  May we follow Him.


Study Questions

  1. Discuss the complete awareness that Jesus had about His mission on Earth.
  2. In our day of self-aggrandizement and Christian celebrity, what does this message from Jesus teach us about true greatness and the way we are to live?
  3. Why is it so hard for people to lift up Jesus and not themselves?  How can we grow to be more like Jesus?