Revelations from the Word

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The leaders and those who are great in the Kingdom of God

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and prostrated herself to ask Him something. He said to her: What do you want? She said to Him: Command that my two sons, who are here, be seated the one at your right and the other at your left, in Your kingdom…He answered them:…but to be seated at my right and at my left, it is not for Me to grant; that will be given only to those to whom My father has ordained it… And Jesus, having called them, said to them: You know that the princes [archon] of the nations rule over them [katakurieuo] and those who are great order them with authority [katexousiazo]. But it must not be like that amongst you; on the contrary, whoever wants to be great among you, let him be your servant [diakonos]. And whoever wants to be the first amongst you, let him be your slave [doulos], as the Son of Man has come, not to be served [diakonéo], but to serve [diakonéo] and give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:20-21,23, 25-28 Ostervald).

The Greek verb 'katakuieuo' comes from 'kurios' that is found in this verse, "You call Me Lord [Kurios]; and you say so rightly, for so I am" (John 13:13), and means 'to exercise lordship', 'to hold in submission'. The lord's subjects are servants 'doulos', slaves who are submitted to him. The Greek verb katexousiazo comes from 'exousia', which is found in this verse, "All authority [exousia] has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18 Darby) and means 'to exercise authority'. The Greek word archo means 'to be in front', 'to be the first', 'to be leader'; it is related to the word archon meaning 'leader', 'prince', 'magistrate'; the word arche meaning 'first', 'beginning'; the word archegos meaning 'initiator', 'prince'; and a whole series of words beginning archi- (leader of).

In the world, leaders exercise their sometimes despotic power (lordship) over those who are in submission to them. The great use their authority to dominate others. Jesus therefore redefines the exercise of power and authority in the Kingdom of God:

  • The heads, those first in position or leaders are to be among the servants doulos (slaves), that is, those who are freely submitted to a higher authority, after the example of the centurion (Matthew 8:9); their authority is found in their ability to submit to and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • The great are among the servants diakonos, also translated by the words 'ministry', 'magistrate', 'minister', 'deaconess', that is those who are in the service of man; their greatness is in the humility of service. That is why the one who puts into practice and teaches the commandments of God will also be called 'great' in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:19).

  • It is not Jesus who decides the place (inheritance) of each one (Matthew 20:23), but the Father who, on the grounds of maturity (Galatians 4:1-2), gives it with the necessary authority to fulfil the calling.

Jesus is called Archegos: "Prince of life" (Acts 3:15), "Prince at the right hand of God" (Acts 5:21), "Prince of salvation" (Hebrews 2:10) and "Prince of faith" (Hebrews 12:2). He is the first in all things and, seated at the right hand of the Father, He has received all power and all authority in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 1:20-23). That is why we have authority in His name to carry out the works of power dunamis of the Holy Spirit in the Kingdom of God. Leaders [presbuteros, elders] are called to lead the flock willingly, devotedly, and not by dominating [katakurieuo] but by being a model (1 Peter 5:1-4).