“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…” Matthew 20:25-26
The incident recorded in Matthew 20 (verses 20-28) precipitated by Mrs. Zebedee and her two sons, James and John, sets the stage for one the great teachings of Jesus Christ.
We can assume these two “Sons of Thunder” (the nickname the Lord game them) who were partners with Simon Peter in the Zebedee Seafood Corporation, were obviously the instigators of their mother’s request that they be seated on the right and left of Jesus when He was crowned King.
When the other apostles griped about this, Jesus called them together. In so many words, He told them the world plays the game of “Over-Under!” This is a world of credentials and status symbols that often say, “I am better than you,” or “I am over and above you.”
Acknowledging that the secular world is like that, Jesus tells them not to play the world’s games. To paraphrase, Jesus says, “This is not to happen among you. If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, you should join the Order of the Towel – get a towel and basin, assume the status of a slave, and start washing feet.”
Jesus uses Himself as an example when He says, “Even as 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) Remember how Jesus spent His last hours before He went to the cross, literally washing the feet of His disciples.
Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook, p.86