Our Selfless Redeemer (Sermon Summaries, 11/5/06)

I haven’t asked this for a while: what did you preach or hear preached Sunday?


I had the privilege–and burden–of preaching Matthew 20:17-34. I call it a privilege because it’s a passage which contrasts Christ’s selflessness with the selfishness of Gentile leaders and even of Christ’s own disciples. I call it a burden for the same reason. Honestly, it’s one of the most convicting passages I’ve preached for a long time.

The heart of the paragraph is 20:28–“the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” That verse, as A.B. Bruce comments, summarizes not only this passage, but the entirety of Christ’s earthly ministry. He came to be a servant and a sacrifice.

The rest of the passage leans into and grows out of v. 28, demonstrating Christ’s sacrifice and service. In verses 17-19, Christ explains (again) that He came to be a sacrifice. Every agony he would suffer was known to Him, yet He went toward Jerusalem undeterred. In Verses 20-28, Christ contrasts worldly leadership with Christian leadership, climaxing His lesson with His own example of v. 28. Finally, in verses 29-34, Christ demonstrates that He came to be a servant. Though the crowds assumed He was too dignified to help begging blind men (like the Gentile leaders would have been), Christ demonstrated the very principle He had just spoken by stopping–by stooping–to serve.

(Aside: It is interesting that Christ’s commands that those who desire to lead should serve is more than a description of how leadership should be exercised — it is a description of how leadership can be acquired in Christ’s economy.)

I was particularly convicted because I know that my life is much more like the Gentile leaders’ and the jockeying disciples’ than Christ’s. I live for me: my time, my space, my reading, my running, my trips, my ballgame, etc. And, to reference a recent post, that’s worldly. It’s exactly how the “Gentiles” live. By God’s grace, I need to change.

Last thing: the Lord seemed to be working in peoples’ hearts through the power of the Word. I believe that the transparency of their pastor’s public admission to being “all about himself” was used of the Lord, as well. (No one corrected me, BTW.) I closed the service by explaining why we were having no invitation: raising a hand or praying a prayer at the close of a service isn’t spiritual progress. Even being convicted of selfishness isn’t spiritual progress. Don’t be fooled and assume that because you feel bad about your sin you’ve taken a spiritual step. You haven’t. Go home, get alone, and spend time seeking the Lord. Confess your selfishness and pride; seek forgiveness; beg for a change of heart as you meditate on Christ (II Cor. 3:18). He changed James and John, the scheming sons of thunder. He can change you and me, too.


Note: I’m attaching a pdf of my notes from the message. In them you can see a more complete explanation of these principles, along with some helpful quotations by godly commentators. I actually rearranged the message a bit as I preached, but it’s a pretty normal example of how I prepare my notes–for better or for worse.


10 Responses

  1. Nice to have this feature back. I put my summary up on my site, here:


    I was preaching Ac 8-12, first message Unlikely Converts, surveying the way the Lord was working to build his church with unlikely and unexpected converts: Samaritans, Ethiopian eunuch, Saul, Cornelius. Second message, transitioning the apostles out of Jerusalem, first showing the apostles foundational ministry, then the Lord’s allowing circumstances to drive them out of the city, leaving the church in the hands of pastor James. That brought us to the third message, from Jas 1-2, where James is writing about real living faith that really works, written in an environment of persecution and dispersion, about AD 45, by my reckoning.

    I was wondering about your notes – do you print them out in colour? You must, eh? I have yet to find a colour printer I liked. They all make me crazy. Maybe I am being too cheap on what I buy… And I hate the cost of the ink, I think it is just a racket.

    Anyway, that lesson the Lord was teaching the disciples had to be taught three times, the passage you cite, Matthew 18, Mk 9, Lk 9, and then just before the Last Supper — that was what the footwashing was all about. It is repeated because they were slow learners, like us. There is some powerful preaching in these passages. I am planning on a major post on Mt 18 soon. It may take awhile, it is a very involved passage.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. The messages look like a blessing, Don. I was glad to read about the unsaved guests that came. Praise the Lord!

    Looks like you’re preaching larger “swaths” of text, as we discussed a while back. I’m doing the same; 18 verses was a lot for me. I’m excited to be “getting” and “teaching” a more macroscopic view of Christ’s ministry. Certainly things should slow down more in epistles, etc., but I’m enjoying covering more ground in narrative preaching.

    Speaking of narrative preaching, we’re working through the life of David on Weds. PM and are enjoying it much. That said, I’ve been excited to get into Pink’s big book on David, which has occupied my shelf for many years. Sadly, it’s been disappointing. So much spiritualization: when David is sent by Jesse to King Saul (ch. 16) it’s a type of the Father sending the Son to a sinful world??? Yikes.

    I’m babbling here. Yes, I print in color. (BTW, what is colour?) It helps me stay organized with just a quick glance. Truth is, though, I spend enough time getting my notes “just so” that I end up not needing them too much. Can’t say I’d want to be in the pulpit without them, though. As for the printer, we have a pretty sharp digital machine that we use to print materials for Buckaroo Bible Club, so we’re able to print some nice things. It’s been a blessing.

    Finally, you’re right: the texts when Christ speaks of Calvary & the disciples miss it due to their posturing are powerful and convicting. Again, I see a lot of me in there.

    Thanks for chiming in. Lord bless you & your ministry there!

  3. p.c….just ’cause you asked…. colour = color, spoken in the queens english! ;-}

  4. Yeah, that’s right. I am on a one man mission to help Americans learn how to spell (and to talk)! I recall the perverse delight I had in a English tutorial class where I was assigned a paragraph to read out loud. One of my buddies from my prayer group sat next to me and I purposely tortured him with my proper pronunciation of ‘schedule’. He is now a high-falutin lawyer, I think he has argued some cases before the Supreme Court. I am sure he owes it all to that episode!

    Just kidding. and just my depravity showing!!

    But I do naturally spell things the Canadian way.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. I’ve been teaching through Galatians in the adult SS class. The best part this past week for me was finding for the first time an explanation for a phrase in 2:17 that made sense to me…probably old hat to many of the pros here… (“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.”) I’ve been making handouts with discussion questions and interpretations of key/hard passages and gave this comment for 2:17:

    In order to be justified by Christ, a person must abandon the law as a means of earning righteousness. The Judaizers condemned such an abandonment of the law as wrong. Paul asks them directly: “Are you accusing Christ, the one who has justified you, of forcing you to sin (i.e. abandon the law) in order for him to declare you righteous?” Paul’s following statement (“May it never be!”) indicates the he expects both his readers and his opponents to recognize the absurdity of such a conclusion.

  6. don, you asked for it….AN English tutorial. smiles!

  7. Very nice. :D

  8. Well, I know the language is English, but we all know that it is spoken best wherever we are from, eh?

    (Notice the superior ‘eh?’ to the low-brow ‘huh?’)


    Back on topic, I do enjoy hearing what others are teaching and preaching. I tell our folks that we can’t get enough of the word of God. Even poorly preached, if the preaching is faithful to the Bible, great works are the result (witness Spurgeon’s conversion) for example. And of course, we should strive to preach well.

    I especially liked Ted’s little bit on Galatians there. I am going to be in Galatians next week in our rapid survey through the NT, so maybe I can use that myself.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  9. Don–I’ve found Lightfoot’s commentary to be an excellent resource as I’ve studied. If you don’t already have it, I recommend it. I’d not really spent much time with it before I started this series.

  10. Hi Ted

    Yes, I do have Lightfoot. He is excellent. I would like to get his other commentaries someday. I also have FF Bruce, Simpson, and MacArthur. I have never found all that much help in a MacArthur commentary, but others like him.

    In this survey series, I am averaging about 2 chapters per message, so I am not getting heavy into the detail, but sometimes little points like the one you mentioned illumine a lot of the thought.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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