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Home Sermons What Am I Supposed To Do With My Life?

What Am I Supposed To Do With My Life?

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What Am I Supposed To Do With My Life?

Matthew 20:17-28

John Hollier

“the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”

Points for this morning are these:-

1. You and I are into ‘self service’
2. Jesus serves, even to death
3. Jesus serves as a ransom
4. What am I supposed to do with my life?


The background to these words starting at Chapter 20 verse 17 is that we are just a week, perhaps days away from the crucifixion of Jesus.

He and his disciples are at Jericho. They are going to Jerusalem which is about 17 miles away.

On the way Jesus pulls them aside and says something that goes completely over their heads.
He says that He is going to die. He says that there are going to be legal proceedings (because He says that He will be “condemned”). He says that He is going to be sentenced and then treated like a criminal. He then says that He will be raised to life.

Now that went over their heads because their minds were still stuck on something that had been said not long before. In the chapter before at verse 27 Peter had said to Jesus “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Our Lord’s reply was “"I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

So you see where there thinking is at – a new beginning, Jesus as King, and them having their thrones too.

Now Jesus takes them aside and says ‘I will be condemned, mocked, flogged and crucified’. It is recorded in a parallel passage in Luke 18:34 that “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”

The fact that they really had on their minds those words about sitting on thrones, comes right out in the verses in our passage this morning which follow - vs 20 and 21.

These verses make up my first point which is this, that:

1. You and I are into “Self service”

20Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21"What is it you want?" he asked.
She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom."

I am not sure how critical we can be of mum here. It is a godly thing for a parent to go out on limb for a child, in order to get the best for them. Although, not at the expense of others.
I’m not sure how much of a ‘go-getter’ she was. She was after all Jesus’ aunt and therefore probably expected a few favours.

To try to get a better hold on what was happening here we need to see that her 2 sons were with her. Indeed in the book of Mark, these 2 sons James and John, also did some talking. In that passage in Mark they said to Him: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask”!!

Now, you know, I’ve been thinking of going to the boss to ask for a wage rise. I ought to take a leaf out of their book. These two fellows do not seem to stop at anything. Indeed, I suspect that they were pushing their mother forward to ask. I say that because the 2 of them were rather aggressive. To complete the character portrait there is another event recorded for us in Luke Chapter 9 verse 54, the people of a small village in Samaria were not completely friendly. They did not take Jesus and His disciples in. Only the response of James and John is recorded – no doubt because it was rather shocking. V54 says 54When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them, just as Elijah did?”!!

So this is what James and John are like - and their mother, she either was pushed or she was just as ambitious.

Either way, the response of Jesus to the mother’s question is, those momentous words “you do not know what you are asking”.

Is not that precisely where you and I are at?

We often lose perspective. We have an inclination to put ourselves 1st, which takes control.

You and I are really into ‘self service’.

This may be tested by a few questions.
What do we do for others?
What do we buy for ourselves?
Whose stomach comes first?
Whose choice of TV show comes first?
Whose time is most important?

Well its my time,
My stomach,
My precious remote control.

Putting Me first affects our relationships.
Some say that selfishness is the greatest killer of marriage.
It’s certainly the great killer of friendships. A verse comes to mind that I learnt as a child (but which I have failed to apply) in Proverbs 18:24 - “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly”

What about selfishness in churches? Well, let me ask this, when was the last time that you really cared about how someone was going?
There is a very good web-site called and it is devoted to encouraging Christians who can’t find encouragement in their own church.
So selfishness must be a big thing in churches all over the place.

The problem with selfishness is – not being able to see it, in ourselves (easy to see it in others).

One of the reasons why the account is given here of James and John and their mother, is precisely so that we will see what we tend to be like - and what Jesus does is to compare it with what He is like.

2. Jesus serves, even to death.

v22  Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?"

The cup that Jesus was going to drink was a cup of suffering.

Some people think that my coffee is bad. But you don’t have to drink it.

The cup that our Our Lord Jesus was destined to drink involved unimaginable suffering. He would not have a choice. He asked “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou [wilt].

He was totally committed to serving His Father and serving us, even to death.

James and John must have grasped the idea of suffering a little, because they said, in answer to Our Lord’s question “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” with “We can”.

When they said this they would not have had any idea about the suffering they would ultimately face. They would have thought that:
-it couldn’t be too bad;
-we’ve got the Man here who can still the storm and raise the dead.

What they had to grasp (and they soon did – days later), was that who would sit on what throne, and being a high official, were not things that Jesus wanted His disciples to want.

“Not so with you” Jesus said at v26. Not so with you and I here this morning.

Being a servant, being a slave is where He wants us.

We have seen that Jesus was prepared to serve even to death. The next point is to answer the question ‘In what way was the death of Jesus a service?’

3. Jesus served as a ransom.

v28   the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

In His death he was serving us because He died as a ransom.

Van Nguyen (‘Nwin’) the man who was hanged last Friday [2.12.2005] in Singapore had an interesting defence. He said that he committed the crime in order to raise some money for his brother’s legal fees. Well, you have to admire someone who goes to such lengths to pay legal fees.

He was arguing that he should be treated generously because he was prepared to risk his life for his brother. The Van Nwin website said that “He was tempted by the drug dealers, the manufacturers, the users but most of all by the desperation and love he felt for his twin brother”.

That sentiment struck a chord with some Australians. Others didn’t believe it. But if true, the idea of risking one’s life for another strikes a deep chord with Australians. It is the Anzac spirit. It is noble. It is serving another.

It is this same idea of Jesus dying for another person, that is at the heart of the Christian message.

Van risked his life, so did Jesus.
Van was condemned and killed, so was Jesus.
Van risked his life dor another, so did Jesus.

Van’s execution was only a possibility at the time he risked his life, but Jesus knew He would face death.
Van did not die innocent. Jesus was innocent. He had committed no crime. A spotless lamb.
Van risked his life for one person, but Jesus died for many.
When Van died it did not take away the sins that his brother had committed, but when Jesus died, He did take away the sins that we had committed.

How did that happen? This is the idea of ransom comes in.

We all know what a ransom is – that’s the money you have to pay to the terrorists if you want your loved one back. It’s the cost of doing business with your enemy. In the same way each of us has sinned against God. We are His enemies and our sins deserved hell. But enter Jesus. He so loved us that he was willing to pay whatever it would cost. What would it cost? The cost had to involve some equivalence with what was being paid off. There was no discount offered here. The price was negotiated in the Godhead. When Jesus died there was a lot happening between Him and His Father. A lot of thoughts. One of them was this: that the price that would be paid would be Jesus stepping in as our substitute. He offered to die as our substitute. What a price.

He died,
not accidentally like one who got caught;
not wastefully like one who thought they could change the world but didn’t.

Jesus died as our ransom. Praise the Lord.

Now I want us to delve into something here for a few minutes: in thinking about what Jesus said  - dying as a ransom, was it such a big thing?  -  because He knew He would rise again anyway?

There is no doubt that He knew that He would rise and that this helped Him - Hebrews 12:2 when talking about how Jesus endured says “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,”.

He still had to endure it though.

When we think of the suffering of Our Lord Jesus it is case of ‘the more you know the more it hurts’. He who has knowledge of all things keenly felt every whipping, every nail, every mockery, every false accusation.

It is also a case of ‘the higher you are the higher you have to fall’.  You think of those pictures of Sadam Hussein in the court room. How humiliated he is. How embarrassed he looks - in front of people - who were once his lackeys – and are now his accusers and his judges. How acutely would Jesus have felt all that was going on around Him. In Acts 8:33 the word “humiliation” is exactly the word used of what happened to Jesus.

The Son of God deserved none of this.

He suffered all His earthly life. Even becoming as one of us was a case of being “humbled” said the Apostle Paul in Philippians.

More than any of these things was the effect of Him being our substitute. The Son was treated by God as a big sinner.

This is something that we can only partially comprehend the personal suffering of Jesus.
Imagine the worst sin. The worst thing that someone could do to you. Then imagine the perpetrator is you.

You see what I am getting at? It was the ultimate punishment.

When He bore the wrath of God, instead of us, God didn’t pretend. It says in Romans 8:32 that “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all”. When it says that He did not spare Him, it means that He showed Him no mercy. This treating Jesus as our substitute, Him becoming the sinner, was not like some mere ceremony, or legal or mathematical or accounting exercise (although those things were involved).  For a period of time, doesn’t matter how short or how long, the human consciousness of Christ endured feelings of separation from His Father: “My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?”. Those feelings were infinitely experienced, and never forgotten.

Jesus served us as a ransom.

4. What Am I Supposed To Do With My Life?

This a great question for this time of year with students leaving school or university.

Do we exist to live for ourselves?


Do we exist to serve our fellowman?


I bought a book a while ago to read, I haven’t got that far. The writer is from England and he is a well reputed historian of science and an Astrophysicist. In his introduction to his History of Science he says this. These are the opening words to his book:

“The most important thing that science has taught us about our place in the Universe is that we are not special”. He then goes on to talk about the discoveries of the Earth not being the centre of the universe, and that the only difference between us and rocks is chemistry. 

Well we are special.

Special enough for God to react to our sinfulness. Special enough for God to choose a vast number of people to be the special objects of His love and to serve them by dying for them.

What we are supposed to do with our lives is firstly to comprehend the meaning of the cross and therefore to live for Christ and not for yourself.

I am not asking you to turn to Christ because you should feel sorry for Him. I am not asking you to turn to Christ because others think it is important to do so. Instead I am asking you to turn to Christ because you see what He like. He is perfect. What imaginary god is there who, on the one hand, is infinitely powerful and sovereign, but on the other hand humbles Himself to serve? There is no imaginary god like that. Instead there is a real God like that. Your God. Your Maker. The majority ignore Him. But He calls you to notice Him, serve Him, honour Him, believe Him.

The second thing we should do with our life is to want to live like Him.  That means being a servant type person.

“Whoever would be great among you let him be your servant”

May God enable us to do just that.

John Hollier


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