This Week's Story

Jesus told his students, "If you want to be first, that means you will serve!"

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Replacing the Tyrant

I was curious about Jesus. When I heard he was travelling to Jerusalem, I decided to follow him. It was easy. People swarmed around him!

I heard religious leaders try to trap him verbally. They failed. I saw dishonest Jewish tax collectors. One named Zacchaeus climbed into a tree so he could see Jesus better. Jesus knew what a crook Zacchaeus was, but he told him to get out of the tree, because he was going to have dinner at Zacchaeus’ house. Oh, I loved that!

In the crowds around Jesus there were muscled fishermen, carpenters, mothers, and sick people longing for Jesus to heal them. Men, women, children, even lepers, the untouchables, found ways to catch his attention. People wanted to see him and hear whatever he said!

One day two of his students with their mother came to Jesus. The woman kneeled respectfully before him. “Lord, may I ask a favor of you?”

“Yes, what is your request?”

“When you are in your kingdom, would you let my sons sit in the seats of honor, one on your right side, and one on your left side?”

He answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink from the cup of sufferings I am soon to drink?”

“Yes! My sons and I can do that!”

Jesus spoke thoughtfully. “You will drink from it, but I do not have the right to say who will sit on thrones beside me. My father has prepared them for the ones He has chosen.”

Jesus’ words were heard by the other students and myself. The students were angry that any student would ask for special privileges.

I wondered: What did Jesus mean when he said that he was going to drink from a cup of suffering? Did he know when he would live in a kingdom that would be his? I wished he would sit down and we could talk together.

After the mother’s request, Jesus spoke to his students about leadership. His words shocked them and they were embarrassed by their own stupidity. Good leadership was what Jesus had lived before them.

The students were used to living in a country which had been defeated by the Romans. It was not a country of the people, by the people, and for the people. It was a country of Jewish people, denied rights by foreign outsiders, and existing for the comfort of Roman occupation forces and Jewish religious leaders. Soldiers and priests were everywhere and possessed of ruthless power. Brutal beatings and crucifixion were common punishment by the Romans for any dissenters. Jewish religious leaders forced the Jews to obey thousands of religious rules. It was a miserable fate to be governed by outsiders and abused by insiders.

Jesus told his students, “You know leaders who are tyrants. If you want to be a leader, then be a servant to the people around you. Understand that if you want to be first, that means you will serve.

“I did not come to the earth so people could serve me. I came to serve them. My life is to be a ransom for people.”

His words troubled me. How would he be a ransom? How could I serve?

This is Barbara Steiner with Jesus’ revolutionary definition of leadership, as presented in Matthew 20 of the Bible. The narrator in the story is added.

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