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Real Greatness

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Matthew 20:17–28 is an interesting section that is tied together by one theme: Jesus Christ preparing to suffer and lay down His life at Jerusalem. This was what occupied the mind and attention of Jesus Christ at this point. But it is interesting to note the attention of the disciples was occupied with something totally different. They were preoccupied with matters relating to their own importance and greatness.

The world measures greatness in terms of power and authority. But Jesus said, “It shall not be so among you” (v. 26). We must operate on a different system than the world, and when we forget this, we begin to operate in the church as the world operates. This creates great problems and destroys any effectiveness in our service for Jesus Christ.

True greatness and honor, in the kingdom that Christ will establish, is determined not by power and influence, but by your service to others. That is what brings true honor before God. The concern of my life must be, “How can I invest it in serving you?”

The great example is in v. 28: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” That is a tremendous statement! The One who alone is worthy that all might bow and serve and honor Him, came not that men might serve Him but that He might serve them.

The word ransom was used of paying the penalty necessary to release a slave. You and I are the slaves of sin, and the penalty for sin is death. What do I need above all else? I need One who can release me from my bondage by paying the price demanded by a holy and righteous God. Jesus Christ came and did just that. “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus paid the penalty for sinful, fallen humanity so that we might be brought to God.

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” Our redemption was not purchased by heritage, by possessions, or by religious associations, but with the blood of Christ. The penalty for sin is death, and the payment of the price was accomplished by Christ. I am cleansed and forgiven by believing in Him and relying upon the fact that He died for me and that He was raised because He had paid the penalty.

Following the example of Jesus Christ does not save you. Having the penalty for your sin paid by Christ saves you. That occurs when you believe in Him. When you believe in Jesus Christ you are “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1). But once we become sons of God through faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26), then we are to follow the example of Christ. As He gave of Himself completely for others, so we are to give of ourselves in unselfish service for others.

I wonder, is that how we really live? Am I so absorbed in loving you that it does not matter how inconvenient it is? Am I being used of God in your life for the accomplishing of His purposes? Stop and think, Lord, how can you use me in someone else’s life? How can I make myself more available to them? If that absorbs each of us, the church will be changed, and we will be living out the beauty of His character, and His life will be seen in us.

—Gil Rugh, condensed