What does it take to be successful in God’s kingdom?

Thursday, December 20, 2012, Part 1

” ‘So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.’ ” Then Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.’ Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ So He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.’ And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘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. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’ ” (Matthew 20:16-28).

IDEA: The saying, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” applies to how we serve.

PURPOSE: To help listeners be aware of the great principle that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Do you ever teach your children memory verses?

I never was taught to memorize Matthew 19:30 or 20:16 because these verses don’t seem to make much sense. What does the saying mean?

Matthew immediately applies it to Jesus in the context.

I. This also applies to us.

How do you become “first” in Christ’s kingdom?

It’s not a bad question to ask; we don’t want to be losers.

That’s the question the mother of Zebedee’s sons asked Jesus (Matthew 20:20-23). She wanted her boys to have top spots, right next to Christ in the kingdom.

Jesus’ response is that you can’t get there unless you go the way He goes. It’s the basic principle that in His kingdom, the way up is the way down.

But that’s not a “working principle.” That position is given by God’s grace and choice alone (Matthew 20:23). You’re not going to get there without it, but there is no guarantee.

II. The principle does apply to how those who want to be first are to behave: they are to be last, Matthew 20:24-28.

The rulers of the Gentiles strut their stuff. You know they’re first. But Jesus says, “You’re to become a slave or a servant.” Whoever wants to be first must be your slave (Matthew 20:27).

Then Jesus takes it back to Himself, Matthew 20:28.

The principle is constant: the first shall be last and the last shall be first. It’s true of Christ.

It’s true of His followers.

It’s true of the way we are to relate to Him and to one another.