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One Master

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Turn with me to the twentieth chapter of the Book of Matthew.  We will start in verse 20.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they just didn’t get what you were talking about?  They heard your words, understood the words but didn’t have a clue what you were talking about.  That happened to Jesus a lot, particularly when it involved the kingdom.

His followers were thoroughly schooled from birth in the Jewish tradition that expected the messiah to be a conquering warrior.  They did not understand that all of the prophecies that pointed to a physical kingdom actually refer to the end times as predicted in the Book of Revelations and Daniel.

The disciples spent a lot of time jockeying for position in the physical kingdom they expected.  They had a pecking order among themselves.  John’s mother went so far as to ask Jesus to give John and his brother the honored ruling positions of right and left hand at court. 

It’s not that Jesus didn’t say it plainly enough.  He did:  He said it was not an earthly kingdom.  His followers got both the where and when wrong.  He was talking about a spiritual kingdom, they understood physical kingdom of Israel.  They were thinking a Jewish kingdom with the Romans expelled, Jesus was talking about the spirit of Christ living within believers.    Let’s crack open the book and step into one of these conversations: 

Matthew 20:20  Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

Matthew 20:21  And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

Can you imagine the Zebedee family conversations among the brothers, mom and cousins that led up to this request?  Do you suppose they had already been out shopping for their courtly robes?   We know that this wasn’t just a spontaneous question put forth by a proud mom.  The account in the book of Mark ascribes the question to the two brothers. It was their idea; they were using their mom as an agent.  There was obviously some discussion and strategy planning involved leading up to the asking for the number two and number three power positions in the Kingdom of Israel.  

Matthew 20:22  But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

Matthew 20:23  And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of 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 shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

Matthew 20:24  And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.

According to Webster, indignation is anger aroused by something unjust, unworthy, or mean.  The ten thought that the two sons of Zebedee were taking unfair advantage. They were jockeying for position in a physical earthly kingdom:  The kingdom of Israel.    The ten were more than a little ticked off.   All of the twelve and their families did not understand.  Look at verse twenty five: 

Matthew 20:25  But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

This is what the two were asking:  To have dominion over the others.  To rule over the court when Jesus moved into Herod’s castle.  Just like the Gentile kings and the Jewish Kings had done.  Dominion comes from a Greek word that means to lord against or subjugate.  They were asking to be the bosses; the controllers, the punishers.  But Jesus said:

Matthew 20:26  But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;  (servant)

Matthew 20:27  And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:  

And then Jesus uses himself as an example:

Matthew 20:28  Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

We have given the King James word “minister” meanings that it was never meant to have.   The word minister is translated from a word that means to run errands, to wait tables; a servant.   A servant does not have any dominion over those they serve.

The idea of dominion of one believer over another is not new.  In many churches there are “bosses,” “little bosses” and then “the bossed.”  The power hierarchy is up-front and blatant in some organizations and subtly hiding beneath the surface in others.  The use of intimidation, deceit, fear and shaming are used to keep bullied and exhausted followers in line. 

The First Jewish Christians continued to follow the religious laws of Moses as do many, many denominational churches today.  The leadership structure of almost all denominations are based on the Old Jewish Priesthood.  The idea is that a few have a special anointing and have more authority and a better connection to God.  The rest have to blindly follow their lead or suffer the consequences.  This is why people go off chasing “special” preachers and prophets.  They are trying to catch the “special” anointing, and receive the upper level blessings that the folks back home missed out on. 

It wasn’t just the disciples that thought Jesus was setting up an earthly kingdom.   The Jews thought so too.  They were watching him and they were afraid he was going to stir up the Romans.  If he angered the Roman’s, those in power would loose their positions, power and maybe their lives.  Over in the book of Luke chapter seventeen, verse twenty, Jesus was asked by some Pharisees when he was planning to establish his kingdom.  He again was plain in his explanation: 

Luke 17:20  And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

Luke 17:21  Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Of course they did not believe him and still expected him to try to take Jerusalem by force.  When multitudes began to follow him everyone expected him to raise an army out of the crowd and storm the castle. 
When Jesus was arrested and taken before Pilate he was accused of being the “king of the Jews”   Look at John chapter eighteen, verse thirty three:  

John 18:33  Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

John 18:34  Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

Joh 18:35  Pilate answered, Am I a Jew?  Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

John 18:36  Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Again, Jesus plainly states that he was not setting up a physical kingdom.   He kept saying it but nobody got it.   Even after he was killed, rose again and was preparing to ascend into heaven the disciples still expecting him to establish a physical earthly kingdom.  Look at Acts chapter one, verse six.   This is just moments before the ascension of Jesus:

Acts 1:6  When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

They had been told multiple times but even after the resurrection they still didn’t get it.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t explain it again, he just tells them to wait for the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, also know as the Spirit of Christ. 

Acts 1:7  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

Acts 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 1:9  And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

The disciples waited in hiding because they were afraid of the Jews.  They waited, still expecting Jesus to return to set up an earthly kingdom.  Read the book of Acts and Galatians. You will find that the Jerusalem church never did get it.  They received and were indwelled with the spirit but continued living under the law.  They did their best to take the law to all who could be subdued by it.   The gospel of Christ was given to Paul.  Paul called it the mystery. It is Christ in you.  The Jerusalem church hierarchy chased, persecuted and harassed Paul for the rest of his life.  And it continues today.

Jesus said: “It shall not be so among you.”  The nations do it, the Jews did it but the church should not be subjugating one another.    There is only one head of the church:  Jesus Christ.  The rest of us are brethren and every joint supplies. 

Let’s wrap this up with another conversation of Jesus.  Look at Luke chapter twenty two, verse twenty-four.  I’ll give you a second or two to get there.  The setting of this passage is the Passover meal.  It is the occasion we commonly call the last supper.  Jesus has just told his disciples that one of them would soon betray him and he would shed his blood for them. In the midst of his passionate pouring out of his heart the disciples were busy arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom they expected Jesus to set up:

Luke 22:24  And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.

Luke 22:25  And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.

Luke 22:26  But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Luk 22:27  For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
How plain can it be?    Jesus said: It shall not be so among you.  Yet today the argument that started among the twelve still rages on.  Who’s going to be the boss?  Who has authority over others?  Whose anointing is greater?  Who does God like best?  Follow my rules or else.  My building is bigger than yours so my truth must be better than yours. 

It’s all a distraction to keep us from seeing the simplicity of Christ in us.   We all have the very same anointing: Christ in you the only hope of glory.  No one has a better anointing than you.  Any who claim a special anointing should be asked: Which god (with a small “g”) did you get it from?  There is only one anointing from the father of Jesus Christ:  The spirit of Christ, the Holy Ghost: The Comforter.  As He lives in and through us we manifest Him.  We carry out his ministry:  The ministry of reconciliation. 

He is the one master; the rest of us are all brethren, joint heirs, full sharers of the inheritance of Jesus.  There is no higher calling.

If the son has set you free, you are free indeed.

Neil



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