Three times in Matthew Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to Jerusalem, where he will be killed. The first, in chapter 16 is where we read of Peter's objection and Jesus' response of "get behind me Satan." The second comes in chapter 17. In this instance, the disciples, we are told, are distressed but we have none of the bravado in the earlier event. Finally, in chapter 20, we find the third declaration but absolutely no response from the disciples.
Matthew places this third declaration between the parable of the early and late workers in the first part of the chapter, and the story of who will be on Jesus' right and left hands in the kingdom. A story of the generosity of God on one side, and a power grab on the other, book-ending if you will, Jesus' final declaration of his going to die at the hands of the powerful in Jerusalem.
Jesus' response to the power grab is a reminder that the kingdom of God has set up leadership and priorities different from the world's. Those who would be first among God's people will give themselves for others, just as Jesus will do in Jerusalem. Immediately after this lesson Matthew gives the opening of the eyes of two blind men - who just want to see.
It's interesting that matthew gives us two blind men at this juncture - Mark records one, and that they "want to see." Could this be Matthew's way of juxtaposing the blindness of Zebedee's sons with these two physically blind men who, instead of arguing over who's "better," just want to see. It seems that this is what Jesus has wanted for his disciples - that they see what he's about.
In these three statements of Jesus' death, we are reminded of his having set his face toward Jerusalem. It is time for his mission to come to its end and he is stoically set on seeing it through. Knowing he will be mistreated; knowing he will be killed, he nevertheless continues his ministry to those around him. Single-focused and yet still ministering, still present to those around him. Single-focused and ministry become one and the same.
Our calling is the same as Jesus': to give ourselves for others, knowing that we will be insulted, dismissed, and even placed in danger by those around us and even those in power. How do we, you, wade into this calling?
Have you set your face toward self-denial, or are you jockying for position? Have your eyes been opened, or are you still seeing through world lenses?