Daily Devotional for Small Group Discussion

Leader’s Instructions:

Before starting, the meeting host should print out enough copies of this page (click on green printer icon above) for everyone in the group. 

After general introductions, word of welcome and review of guidelines for small groups the meeting host:

1. Invites someone to read the daily devotion (printed below) aloud.

2. Reads aloud the following introduction to the full text:

For this devotion, Rev. Vicki Kemper chose a verse from Matthew as Jesus enters the final days of his ministry. Likewise the full passage from Matthew chapter 20 envisions a transition to the kingdom with Jesus in his glory and the disciples jockeying for position. Jesus claims the moment to correct their inverted ideas about power and glory. As we read the complete passage aloud, circle any words or phrases that strike you.

3. Reads the full text aloud:

Matthew 20:20-28 – The Request of the Mother of James and John

20 The mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 21And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ 22But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ 23He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’

24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.26It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

4. Take a minute or two for silent contemplation of the passage.

5. As a group, reflect on the following questions (remember to refrain from cross-talk):

  1. What word, phrase or image jumps out at you from this reading? Everyone shares without commentary.
  2. What’s God saying to you in this passage? (remember to refrain from cross talk)
  3. What is the call to action for you and/or for our faith community? (it’s fine to engage in group conversation when discussing the communal call to action).

6. Close the meeting by praying the Lord’s Prayer together. 

The Right Stuff

Vicki Kemper

“Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28

Their resumés would have been a bit thin:

Names: James and John
Previous employment: Net menders/fish catchers/wave riders, Zebedee & Sons, Inc.
Education: Not exactly
Relevant experience: Disciples of Jesus “Maybe the Messiah” of Nazareth
Career goal: To be chiefs of staff to Jesus after he becomes king
References: Mom

The problem wasn’t that James and John were under-qualified. It wasn’t even—as the other disciples groused—one of naked, power-hungry ambition.

James and John wanted to be great, alright, but their desire was for the good kind of greatness. Like most of us, they wanted to excel at making a difference. They wanted the power to change the world for the better—and that’s a holy fire in the belly to be fueled, a calling to be followed, a dream job worth pursuing.

But they didn’t understand how change happens or what power requires. Like many of us, their eyes were on the ladder and they were committed to the climb—for the good of all, you understand.

Hold up, Jesus said. The power to change the world doesn’t come from the top down or the outside in. True success—the capacity to love, liberate, and empower—is an inside-out, bottom-up job. Being great is not about having or getting the right stuff; it’s about giving up and giving away. The career path worth following is not the four-lane highway that leads to a corner office but the dusty trail of personal transformation. There are no shortcuts, just lots of people needing you to stand with them and work with them for a better day.

You wanna be great? Jesus asks. Fine, but you’d better know what you’re in for. Then go for it with all you’ve got.


Great Servant and Lover of all, give me the power to build a resumé that makes others look better than me. Amen.