March 25-27, 2017
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Matthew 20:20-28
“CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?”
1. Not when we focus on ourselves.
2. Only when we focus on Christ.
Matthew 20:20-28 (EHV) “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to him with her sons, kneeling and asking something of him. 21He said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Promise that in your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right hand and one on your left hand.” 22But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are.” 23He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not for me to give; rather these places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” 24When the ten heard this, they were angry with the two brothers. 25But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26It will not be that way among you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It seems to be building every year, this polarizing of America. From presidents and politics to policing and moral issues it seems more and more that it is impossible for people to have a civil discussion, to be able to disagree without getting disagreeable. And so a husband and wife divorce over the results of an election. And a fitness center in Scranton, PA bans its members from watching national news programs while working out.” Why?” you ask. Too many fights had to be broken up. You find yourself asking, “Can’t we all just get along?” But this nastiness isn’t always just out there on the news, is it? There can be angry yelling and nastiness in the workplace, with our classmates and in our own homes. “Can’t we all just get along?” Sad to say lack of civility and common kindness is nothing new. The sinful nature of human beings is hardwired to inhuman behavior. We see it in the word of God today with Jesus’ disciples. But we also see the solution.
If any group on earth was going to be able to get along, you would think it would be a group of people led by Jesus. Throw out all your books on leadership and management styles, you cannot improve on Jesus. He is God. He is perfect. His example is flawless. But what do see among His followers? They can’t get along. “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to him with her sons, kneeling and asking something of him. 21He said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Promise that in your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right hand and one on your left hand.” At first glance this does not seem very egregious. A mother wants what’s best for her sons. Is there any mother here today who does not look out for her children? Of course you do. It’s your privilege and your job. But this goes beyond taking care of the needs of children. What the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, wants comes at the expense of others. Give them more honor than the rest of the disciples.
The response of the other disciples is sadly predictable. “When the ten heard this, they were angry with the two brothers.” Angry. Indignant. Mad. Why? You wanted better for yourselves than us? You think you are greater than we are? Hey, wait a minute. Can’t we all just get along? No. Not when you focus on yourself. Not when your view greatness as having more power, control and prestige than others. Not when your guiding principle is “What’s in it for me?” Not when your measure of what is good and right or should happen comes through the filter of only if it’s good for me and mine. The sinful nature is hardwired to be selfish, self-centered and focused on self.
God had a different James tell us plainly (James 4:1-3) “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” This is why people can’t get along. This why we can’t always get along. By nature we are focused on ourselves.
But we don’t have to be that way with Christ in our lives. Look at how Jesus answered the original request. “But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are.” 23He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not for me to give; rather these places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” James and John wanted to be active in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus reminded them that following Him means drinking his cup. Naturally, especially at this time of year, we think of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane for His Father to take the cup of suffering away from Him. No one else can drink that cup but the God man Jesus Christ who suffered for the sins of the world. There is another way we can think of this cup, a cup that refreshes. While Jesus suffered greatly the Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews that for the joy set before Him Jesus’ endured the cross, scorning its shame. In other words, the cross was awful but it gave Jesus such joy to save sinners that it was worth it to Him.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus said what He did next. “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26It will not be that way among you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Here’s how we can all get along. Focus on Jesus. Jesus’ disciples needed to learn that greatness in the kingdom of God does not come from grabbing power, authority or prestige for yourself. It doesn’t come from looking out for number one. It comes from serving the needs of others. Like Jesus did. The number one need of all people is to be rescued, ransomed from the eternity in Hell that everyone earns for themselves by sinning. Only Jesus could fill that need. Only He is the perfect Son of God whose loving sacrifice is enough to pay for the sins of the world. So he did it, even though it was not easy, even though the thought of it caused Him to pray in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Can’t we all just get along? Yes, when we focus on Jesus. When we see what He did for us, His love, His sacrifice our selfish hearts get changed into selfless hearts. Me first is replaced with you first. Please self is replaced with a eager desire to please Jesus and you find you can get along. I see that here at St. Jacobi. Some of you know that thousands and thousands of volunteer hours are put in. For a Bible Class last fall I did a quick count and discovered that 343 different communicant members were serving here in some way. Recently we got almost 9000 pieces of mail ready for three different mailings. That’s a lot of serving. Sometimes when I see you serving I actually remember to say Thank you. Do you know what the most common response that I get when I thank members for serving? No, it’s not “You’re welcome.” It’s “No. Thank you. It’s my privilege.” Now we are talking about work here. You’re drinking the cup. You are keeping your eyes on Jesus. I think that’s why for the most part, we all get along.
But this isn’t something for us to limit to our church life. We can do it in our home lives and our work lives, our school lives and our play lives. Think of the joy set before you that comes when husband serve the needs of wives and vice versa, when parents serve children and children serve parents. Imagine the difference in a workplace where employers are sensitive to the needs of employees and employees to the greater good of the company. And there was a president many years ago who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Can’t we all just get along? Yes, when our eyes are on Jesus.
You know that tells us what our most important task is. If we want our homes blessed, our workplace blessed, our country blessed, then we need the people there able to keep their eyes on Jesus. For your homes make sue Jesus is present daily in devotion and prayer. For your workplace, let your light shine. Pray to be used as a witness. For our country we need to fund and carry out as much Gospel ministry as we can. Only believers can keep their eyes on Jesus. You are. You will. Let’s pray and work for many more. Amen.