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—MATTHEW 20:17-34.—AUGUST 21.—
AMBITION moves the world—selfish ambition. A certain kind of ambition—to please God and to have his rewards, is encouraged by the exceeding great and precious promises of God's Word. Think of the promise held out to the consecrated, self-sacrificing followers of Jesus—that, if faithful unto death, they shall receive the "crown of life," immortality, and attain a place with their [R4669 : page 265] Master in his Throne—as participants in the glories and honors of his Kingdom! There is no earthly appeal to ambition so strong as this, which comes from the Creator to such as have the hearing ear of faith. Nevertheless, the ambitions awakened by these promises, we are warned, might become our snares. The very condition upon which we may attain the Kingdom is our faithful endurance of shame, contempt, misunderstanding, and our demonstration to the last of humility and absolute loyalty to God and full resignation to his providences. Whoever would reign with Messiah in his approaching Kingdom, for which we pray, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven," must humble himself under the mighty hand of God, that he may be exalted in due time.—I Peter 5:6.
The prospect of the Kingdom was bright before the minds of the Apostles, even when Jesus was foretelling [R4669 : page 266] his ignominious sufferings and death; so that two of his beloved followers, James and John, through their mother, importuned a promise that they should sit, the one on the right hand and the other on the left hand of the Great King when his Kingdom should be established.
This request drew from the Great Teacher the suggestion that his loving and ambitious disciples had, perhaps, not fully counted the cost of such exaltation. He inquired if they were willing to drink of his cup of ignominy and reproach, and if they were willing to be baptized with his baptism, into his death—the sacrifice of all earthly interests. They had counted the cost, and promptly responded as to their willingness. They had learned well the lessons of the Great Teacher. He assured them that with this willingness of mind the privilege would be theirs of sharing his ignominy and his death and of sitting with him on his Throne. But as respects the chief positions, they were not at his disposal. At the conclusion of the testings of his people, those positions of highest honor in the Kingdom next to himself will be given according to the just standards which the Father has prepared and established. How we can rejoice with those Apostles in the fullness of their consecration and in the assurance of the Master! And we also should strive by faithfulness to attain a place with the Master in his Throne, as members of his Body, the Church.
The ambition of James and John was shown in their desire for places of special nearness to the Lord. Jesus did not reprove them specifically, but indirectly. When the other ten heard how these two had sought to bespeak the chief places of honor they were indignant. The Master took advantage of the incident to show how different is God's judgment from that of men. With men the aggressive and powerful hold the lordship and dominion over the others, but in the Divine arrangement the order is reversed. God will honor most and put in the highest positions, the humble, the submissive, the meek. On this incident the Lord based a general instruction to his followers on the necessity for humility. We are to take the Divine standpoint and honor most in the Church those who most serve the Church, and not those who demand service and honors and seek self-exaltation. Our Lord pointed to his own course as an illustration: they acknowledged him as their Master, and yet no one served them so much as did he. Indeed, he came into the world not to be served, but to serve others, even to the extent of laying down his life as the ransom price for many, for the world, to be applied for their release from sin and death condemnation in God's time—during the Messianic Kingdom.
Journeying on the Master had an opportunity of exemplifying his position as a servant. Two blind men, learning that he was passing, exercised such faith that they hailed him as the Messiah, the Son of David, entreating Mercy, Help, Relief. Instead of passing them by, saying, You are only blind beggars, anyway, the Master stopped and called them to him and, in response to their request, touched their eyes, and immediately they received sight. Other Scriptures indicate that the Great Teacher's miracles were not performed without cost to himself, "Virtue (vitality) went out of him and healed them all."—Luke 6:19.
He who was rich, for our sakes became poor, humbling himself to serve the humblest and poorest unfortunates! Here we have an illustration of the spirit of meekness, the spirit of service, which must characterize the hearts, and, in some degree, control the lives of all true followers, disciples, of the Great Teacher. If it is not in our power to open the eyes of the physically blind, it is in our power to help many to a clearer insight into the things of God which the natural eye hath not seen, nor ear heard—the things which God hath in reservation for them that love him and that, loving him, follow in the footsteps of Jesus. (I Cor. 2:9.) Let us, then, seek the true, God-given ambition; but let us specially seek to know and to do the will of our Father in heaven.