10. The fruit of faith, 19:1-20:34

iv] Suffering and service


Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem, drawing near to Jericho and the border of Judea. Taking the disciples aside from the large crowd which is following, Jesus, for a third time, speaks of his coming passion, this time in even more detail. Jesus is then approached by the mother of James and John with the request that her boys sit on his right and left side in the kingdom. The other disciple react negatively and so Jesus goes on to speak about the issue of true service.


Living in Christian community is all about serving, not ruling.


i] Context: See 19:16-30.


ii] Structure: Suffering and service:

Setting, v17;

Jesus' third passion prediction, v18-19;

False ambition, v20-23;

"to sit at my right hand .....

is for those for whom it has been prepared ..."

True service, v24-28:

"whoever wants to become great among you

must be your servant."

"the Son of man did not come to be served,

but to serve, and give his life ......."


iii] Interpretation:

Jesus, for a third time, speaks of his coming passion, this time in even more detail, setting out the events leading up to the crucifixion, although interestingly, here the mocking comes before the scourging. Jesus is then approached by the mother of James and John with the request that her boys sit on the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom. This selfish presumption for pre-eminence in the kingdom - probably not just down to their mother - stands in stark contrast to the God who makes the last first. Do they really think they can fill Jesus' shoes in this respect, of service even unto death? They claim they can, and so it will be. The other disciples get wind of the political move pulled on by James and John and are less than impressed - are they eyeing off the greasy pole as well? Jesus has already told his disciples that they will reign with him, but their rule is not like that of secular authorities; they will rule by serving others, by acting graciously toward others, irrespective of who they are or what they have done. In that sense they follow in the footsteps of the Son of Man who came not to be served, but to serve.

When it comes to the management of a Christian community, even just living in Christian community, it's all about serving, not ruling. The example of such is set by Jesus, the one whose authority covers heaven and earth, for he who is first made himself last for all.


Within Matthew's contextual theme of compassion in Christian community, the passage as a whole serves as a paradigm for the management of a Christian church. The business of ruling is the business of serving. Christ himself provides the example of ruling by his life-giving service to broken humanity. So, in line with God's way of doing things, of the last in line made first, "whoever wishes to be first among you must be your servant."


Biblical truths evident in this passage:

• The suffering Son of Man: Again Jesus, the Christ / messiah, prophetically declares that he, the glorious Son of Man, the one who will reign at the right hand of the Ancient of Days, is also the suffering servant - the one who comes not to be served, but to serve. This prophetic self-revelation provides us with a deep understanding of the person of Christ.


• The Son of Man gives his life as a ransom for many: There is very little information provided in the synoptic gospels as to the meaning of Christ's death. Why was it necessary for the messiah to die, to be handed over to death? Verse 28 provides a specific observation on the saving purpose of Jesus' death. Jesus death is a 'ransom', a payment of a price made for the 'many' who are unable to pay the price for themselves. See below.


• The cup: It is easy to take an OT image like this and draw too much from it, but none-the-less it seems likely that the cup of suffering which Jesus will face is God's judgment poured out on Jesus. Jesus is the representative of God's people, suffering on our behalf on the cross. See v22.


He gave his life as a ransom for many: The sense of this word lutron, "ransom", is somewhat imprecise and so has become a matter of some debate. The second option seems the safest:

• The more conservative commentators understand it to mean a ransom-price paid for the release of someone, cf. Lev.25:26, 51-52, Ex.21:30, 30:12, Num.18, 35:31-32. With this approach, Jesus' death serves as the payment for the liberation of those in bondage, obviously the bondage of sin, with the death of "the righteous being accepted as compensation for the sins of the people", Nineham. The payment is made to God through the vehicle of propitiation (the turning aside of God's divine justice / wrath onto the perfect sacrifice, ie., "a full satisfaction of God's justice", Edwards). The idea of a payment made to assuage the anger of an angry God has prompted the suggestion that the payment was made to the Devil, eg. Origin.


• The idea of a literal ransom-price is resisted by many commentators. Cranfield suggests that behind lutron lies the Hebrew word for "guilt-offering" and Isaiah uses this of the Suffering Servant, "thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin. With this approach, the word expresses substitution where Jesus, the Suffering Servant, takes the place of the many who cannot do for themselves; "he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors", Isa.53:12, 14-15, 53:11-12. Although the Suffering Servant background to "ransom" is not as strongly held today, the idea of substitution / exchange, of lutron anti, "ransom instead of", is still likely. The Son of Man functions "as a kind of lightning rod for the coming wrath of God, which is to be spent on him so that others may be spared the wrath that is justly their due", Nolland. This idea of "ransom" as a standing in the place of, with respect to the judgment of God, is evident in the OT and in later writing, eg., 4Macc.6:27-29, on the death of Eleazar, "You know, O God, that though I might have saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for the sake of the law. Be merciful to your people and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification and take my life (yuch) as a ransom (antiyucon) for theirs."


• Some argue that lutron is formed from the same root (luein, "release") as lutrwsiV, "redemption", and that in the LXX and the NT it is used of "God's deliverance of his people without any notion of a ransom-price paid", Anderson. With this approach, the word describes a redemptive salvific event where Christ, as the servant of all, gives his life to set God's people free.


iii] Synoptics:

Farmer, Problem, 1964, argues that Matthew is the primary source for this passion prediction and that Mark has used both Matthew and Luke to produce his version of the saying in 10:32-34. D&A make the point that Matthew's version of this pericope tends to align Mark's account closer to the facts, eg., Mark's "they will kill" is made "they will crucify", and Mark's "after three days", is changed to "on the third day." It seems more likely that Matthew has tidied up Mark than Mark has messed up Matthew. Of course, they can still all be working off the same oral tradition cf., Rist, The Independence of Matthew and Mark, 1978. Mark is also judged as the source of the next two episodes: false ambition, v20-23; true service, v24-28. Both episodes evidence a chiastic structure and parallelism indicating an original oral source. The last episode, v24-28, evidences an amalgam of a number of sayings over time into a redactional whole (so Marcus), probably before it was recorded by Mark. The whole package, v17-28, likely came together during the time of oral transmission. Luke goes his own way with regard this episode, cf., Lk.22:24-27, 12:50.

Text - 20:17

True service, v17-28: i] The third prediction of Christ's passion, v17-19

anabainwn (anabainw) pres. part. "[Jesus] was going up" - [and jesus] going up [to jerusalem]. The participle is usually treated as adverbial, temporal; "as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem", ESV. The "up" is used in the sense of height, Jerusalem being in the highlands, although this would only be said with respect to Jericho. This is probably the reason for the addition of "about to"; "at the point of going up to Jerusalem", Berkeley.

en "on [the way]" - [he took the twelve disciples privately] on [the way]. Possibly local, expressing space, "while Jesus was traveling on the road leading up to Jerusalem", but more likely adverbial, temporal, "as they were traveling", BDAG. "Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem. While on the way he took the twelve aside privately."

kat idian "aside" - The preposition kata + adj. forms the adverbial idiomatic phrase, "privately"; "he took the twelve privately" = "he took the twelve aside by themselves."

autoiV dat. pro. "[said] to them" - Dative of indirect object.


idou "-" - behold, pay attention [we are going to jerusalem]. Interjection; "take notice", Berkeley.

oJ uiJoV tou anqrwpou "the Son of Man" - [and] the son of man. See 8:20.

paradoqhsetai (paradidwmi) fut. pas. "will be delivered over" - The word is used a number of times of Jesus' being handed over / delivered up / betrayed into the hands of his enemies. From another angle, Jesus gave himself up, Gal.2:20.

toiV arciereusin (euV ewV) dat. "to the chief priests" - to the chief priests [and scribes]. Dative of indirect object. Jesus will be handed over to Israel's religious authorities. Is it God who ultimately does the handing over / delivering up?

qanatw/ (oV) "[they will condemn him] to death" - Dative of indirect object, or possibly reference / respect, so Decker, or even instrumental, expressing means. The word "condemn" expresses a legal judgment.


toiV eqnesin (oV) "to the Gentiles" - [and they will hand him over] to the nations, gentiles. Dative of indirect object. At this time the Jewish authorities were not able to execute a person except for desecration of the temple (note how the trial focused on this issue). So, having found Jesus deserving of death as a false messiah, they had to look to the Roman authorities to carry out their verdict. "They will hand him over to the Romans", Barclay.

eiV to + inf. "to be [mocked]" - to mock / ridicule / made fun of [and to whip / flog / scourge and to crucify]. This construction serves to introduce a final clause expressing purpose.

th/ trith/ hJmera/ dat. "on the third day" - [and] on the third day. The dative is adverbial, temporal, of time, as NIV.

egerqhsetai (egeirw) fut. pas. "he will be raised to life" - he will be raised. Divine / theological passive; "God will raise him to life again", TH.


ii] Status seeking, v20-23. Mark has James and John coming to Jesus with the request rather than their mother, and Matthew doesn't mention the boys by name. Jesus' address is still to the boys, rather than their mother, but by not mentioning their names the reader is not distracted from the point of the episode by focusing on personalities. The incident serves as "an illustration of individual ambition in religious disguise", D&A; "false striving for earthly greatness", Luz.

tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb used to indicate a step in the narrative.

twn uiJwn Zebedaiou (V) gen. "[the mother] of Zebedee's sons" - the mother [of the sons of zebedee]. The genitives are adjectival, relational.

autw/ dat. pro. "[came to] Jesus" - [came to / approached] him. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "came to."

meta + gen. "with [her sons]" - with [the sons of her]. Expressing association.

proskunousa (proskunew) pres. part. "kneeling down" - worshipping, doing obeisance, adoration. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their approach to Jesus; "they came grovelling" (that's a bit unfair!!!)

aitousa (aitew) pres. part. "asked" - [and] asking. Again the participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their approach; "and begging".

ap (apo) + gen. "[a favor] of [him]" - [a certain something] from / of [him]. Expressing source / origin, "from", or used instead of a partitive genitive, "of". "Begged a favor", NAB.


auth/ dat. pro. "-" - [but/and he said] to her [what do you will? she says to him]. Dative of indirect object.

iJna + subj. "[grant] that" - [say] that [these, the two sons of me, may sit one on right of you and one on left of you in the kingdom of you]. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what their mother wants Jesus to say, "promise that ..."; "Give the order that these two sons of mine are to take their seats in your kingdom, one sitting on your right side and the other on your left", Cassirer.

ou|toi pro. "these" - Demonstrative pronoun, to which oiJ duo uiJoi mou, "the two sons of me", stands in apposition.

ek + gen. "at [your right]" - from [right of you]. Serving as a partitive genitive; "on the right." These are positions of honor and authority, the right being the more so. Commentators with a kindly bent (eg., Morris, Luz) note the positive with the negative, a strong belief in the coming kingdom held by the two boys and their mother, but the self-seeking of the family is surely the point at issue, not their faith

en + dat. "in" - in [the kingdom of you]. Local, expressing space / sphere, "where you are king", but possibly adverbial, temporal, "when you are king", TEV.


As Nolland notes, drinking the cup "is itself part of what is being asked for" by James and John; ruling is serving / life giving / suffering. The pivotal moment of Christ's reign, on behalf of God's people, is his life giving sacrifice upon the cross, of the turning aside of God's wrath onto himself, on our behalf. James and John have little idea what they are asking for. They will reign / rule = serve, and thus suffer, but reigning as Christ will reign on the cross is beyond them.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus said]" - [but/and Jesus] having answered. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant; "Jesus answered and said."

aiteisqe (aitew) pres. "you are asking" - [said, you do not know what] you are asking. The verb is second person plural, ie., Jesus is addressing not just the mother of James and John.

piein (pinw) aor. inf. "drink" - [are you able] to drink [the cup which I am about] to drink. The infinitive is complementary, completing the verbs "are you able" and "I am about." "Are you prepared to drink from my cup of suffering?"

to pothrion (on) "the cup" - Clearly a figurative reference to suffering. The image has OT precedence, probably in the terms of "being overcome by disaster", Nolland, a disaster prompted by the judgment of God which envelops the innocent with the wicked. It is unclear to what extent Jesus sees this suffering in the terms of "suffering God's wrath or judgment", D&A, cf., Ps.11:6, 75:7-9, Isa.51:17, 22, Jer.25:15, 49:12, Lam.4:21.... "The cup" is likely not referring to sacramental wine, temptations, the drink given Christ on the cross, or even death itself; "Can you pass through the bitter experience which I must pass", Barclay.

egw pro. "I" - The personal pronoun is emphatic by use and position.

autw/ dat. pro. "[we can, they answered]" - [they say] to him [we are able]. Dative of indirect object.


The disciples may not understand now, but the day will come when "they will give their lives as those who live out an understanding of greatness as service", Nolland. This "service" may involve martyrdom, as it did for James, although in tradition John went through times of suffering, but probably not martyrdom.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [he says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

men ..... de ... "...... but ...." - on the one hand [you will drink the cup of me], but on the other ..... Adversative comparative construction.

to .... kaqisai (kaqizw) aor. inf. "to sit" - [the cup of me you will drink but] to sit [on right of me and on left]. The articular infinitive forms a noun clause, serving as a nominative pendens (an independent substantival construction) linked to the rest of the sentence by the pronoun touto, "this"; "to sit on my right and on my left, this is not mine to grant." "To choose who will sit at my right and at my left", TEV.

ek ...ex + gen. "on" - from. See v21.

dounai (didwmi) aor. inf. "to grant" - [this is not mine] to give. The infinitive is epexegetic, specifying what "is not mine", namely, "the authority to give this."

all (alla) "-" - but. Strong adversative standing within a counterpoint construction, "not ...... but ....."; "it is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared", Berkeley.

oi|V dat. rel. pro. "these places belong to those for whom" - for whom. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV.

hJtoimastai (eJtoimazw) perf. "they have been prepared" - it has been prepared. Moffatt's "for whom they have been destined" is far too strong, so also Cassirer. Phillips' "planned it", or just "prepared" is better.

uJpo + gen. "by [my Father]" - by [the father of me]. Expressing agency.


iii] True service, v24-28. "Whoever would be first among you must be your servant." Humility is the crucial ingredient in the exercise of authority; "to set one's heart on eminence is to lose the heart of the Christian way", Morris.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when [the ten] heard about this" - [the ten] having heard. The participle is adverbial, best taken as temporal, as NIV.

peri + gen. "[they were indignant] with" - [the ten were indignant] concerning, about [the two brothers]. Expressing reference / respect; "with reference to, with respect to, concerning, about" = "at, with."


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

proskalesmanoV (proskalew) aor. part. "[Jesus] called [them] together" - [jesus] having called, summoned [them said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said".

oJti "[you know] that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they know.

twn eqnwn (oV) gen. "[the rulers] of the Gentiles" - [the rulers] of the nations, gentiles. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination; "the rulers over the Gentiles."

autwn gen. pro. "[lord it over] them" - [exercise power, rule over] them [and the great ones exercise authority over] them. Genitive of direct object after the kata prefix verbs "to exercise power over" and "to exercise authority over." "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their head", Peterson.


ou{twV adv. "[not] so" - [not] thus, in this way. Demonstrative adverb expressing manner. "It cannot be that way with you", NAB.

en + dat. "with [you]" - [will it be] in [you]. Here expressing association; "with, among."

all (alla) "instead" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, "not ..... but ....."

oJV ean + subj. "whoever" - Introducing an indefinite relative clause which is conditional, "whoever wishes to be great among you, then he will become = let him become the servant of you" = "whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all", Phillips.

genesqai (ginomai) aor. inf. "to become" - to be. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to will, want", or as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what is wanted, namely, to become great.

megaV adj. "great" - great [among you]. Predicate adjective; "a person of some importance."

estai (eimi) fut. "must be" - he, she, it will be [servant]. The future is usually taken here as an imperative given ouc outwV estai en uJmin, "it shall not be so among you."

autwn gen. pro. "your [servant]" - [servant, slave] of you. The genitive is adjectival, usually viewed as verbal, objective - possessive seems unlikely.


oJV an + subj. "whoever" - As in v26.

en + dat. "-" - [whoever wills] in [you]. Expressing association; "among".

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "to be [first]" - The infinitive introduces a dependent statement of perception expressing what is desired, namely, to be first. "If any have ambitions to rule over you, they should consider contracting themselves as a bondservant, rather than your master", cf., Junkins. The prwtoV, "first", is referring to a person of the highest rank and therefore one who rules. The douloV, "slave", is a person of the lowest rank and therefore one who serves.

estai (eimi) fut. "must be" - will be [slave of you]. The future tense is taken here as an imperative.


This saying of Jesus gives a substantial insight into the meaning of the cross, the sense of which has prompted endless debate. It is presented as Jesus' last words as he sets out for Jerusalem. "He himself, destined to have authority in heaven and earth, is the outstanding example of the first who has made himself last, And his precedent is imperative", D&A. The saying is exactly the same as that found in Mark except for wJsper which replaces kai gar.

wJsper "just as" - Comparative, setting up a pattern for rule in the Christian community, and discipleship in general.

oJ uiJoV tou anqrwpou "the Son of Man" - See 8:20.

diakonhqhnai (diakonew) aor. pas. inf. "to be served" - [did not come] to be served. As with diakonhsai, "to serve" and dounai, "to give", the infinitive here is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; "in order to, with a view to." The word is used of lowly service of some kind, such as waiting on tables. Jesus did not come to have people serve him, but he came to serve us. The nature of that service is expressing in the following clause, although its meaning is a matter of debate.

alla "but [to serve as]" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, "not ..... but ....."

thn yuchn autou "his life" - [and to give] the life of him. A reflective pronoun could be used here, so "give himself as a ransom", but this construction is much stronger / emphatic.

lutron (on) "as a ransom" - a ransom. The accusative complement of the object "soul" standing in a double accusative construction.

anti + gen. "for" - Usually expressing substitution, "instead of", but it can also express exchange, "in the place of", and rarely advantage, "for the benefit of."

pollwn gen. adj. "many" - The adjective serves as a substantive. "Many" is not "all"; Christ's death, with the ransom paid, is for all who have faith. This issue has been long debated.


Matthew Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]