Matthew 20:25
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
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(25) Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles.—No words of reproof could more strongly point the contrast between the true and the false views of the Messiah’s kingdom. The popular Jewish expectations, shared by the disciples, were really heathen in their character, substituting might for right, and ambition for the true greatness of service.

Exercise dominion over them.—Better, as in 1Peter 5:3, lord it over them. It is not easy to find a like forcible rendering for the other word, but we must remember that it, too, implies a wrong exercise of authority, in the interest, not of the subjects, but of the rulers.

20:20-28 The sons of Zebedee abused what Christ said to comfort the disciples. Some cannot have comforts but they turn them to a wrong purpose. Pride is a sin that most easily besets us; it is sinful ambition to outdo others in pomp and grandeur. To put down the vanity and ambition of their request, Christ leads them to the thoughts of their sufferings. It is a bitter cup that is to be drunk of; a cup of trembling, but not the cup of the wicked. It is but a cup, it is but a draught, bitter perhaps, but soon emptied; it is a cup in the hand of a Father, Joh 18:11. Baptism is an ordinance by which we are joined to the Lord in covenant and communion; and so is suffering for Christ, Eze 20:37; Isa 48:10. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; and so is suffering for Christ, for unto us it is given, Php 1:29. But they knew not what Christ's cup was, nor what his baptism. Those are commonly most confident, who are least acquainted with the cross. Nothing makes more mischief among brethren, than desire of greatness. And we never find Christ's disciples quarrelling, but something of this was at the bottom of it. That man who labours most diligently, and suffers most patiently, seeking to do good to his brethren, and to promote the salvation of souls, most resembles Christ, and will be most honoured by him to all eternity. Our Lord speaks of his death in the terms applied to the sacrifices of old. It is a sacrifice for the sins of men, and is that true and substantial sacrifice, which those of the law faintly and imperfectly represented. It was a ransom for many, enough for all, working upon many; and, if for many, then the poor trembling soul may say, Why not for me?But Jesus called them unto him - That is, he called all the apostles to him, and stated the principles on which they were to act.

The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them - That is, over their subjects. "You know that such honors are customary among nations. The kings of the earth raise their favorites to posts of trust and power they give authority to some over others; but my kingdom is established in a different manner. All are to be on a level. The rich, the poor, the learned, the unlearned, the bond, the free, are to be equal. He will be the most distinguished that shows most humility, the deepest sense of his unworthiness, and the most earnest desire to promote the welfare of his brethren."

Gentiles - All who were not Jews - used here to denote the manner in which human governments are constituted.

Minister - A servant. The original word is deacon - a word meaning a servant of any kind; one especially who served at the table, and, in the New Testament, one who serves the church, Acts 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:8. Preachers of the gospel are called minister's because they are the servants of God and of the church 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4; Ephesians 4:12; an office, therefore, which forbids them to lord it over God's heritage, which is the very opposite of a station of superiority, and which demands the very lowest degree of humility.

Mt 20:17-28. Third Explicit Announcement of His Approaching Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection—The Ambitious Request of James and John, and the Reply. ( = Mr 10:32-45; Lu 18:31-34).

For the exposition, see on [1331]Mr 10:32-45.

See Poole on "Matthew 20:27".

But Jesus called them unto him,.... All his twelve disciples, perceiving that the same ambitious views prevailed in them all: to discourage which, and to prevent their quarrelling one with another, he called them to him, and made use of the following reasonings:

and said, ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them; appealing to them in a case that was well known by them, what the princes of the Gentiles did; or, as Mark expresses it, "they which are accounted", or "seem to rule over the Gentiles": who know not God, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who neither serve and obey him, or have any dependence on him, but assume a power of governing others, take upon them to rule the nations of the world, and are acknowledged as such by them: these claim a superiority over others, and exercise lordly power over them; and they that are their great ones, their lords, and nobles under them; these also assert a preeminence, and exercise authority on those that are below them; which they have received from those that are above them: this is the usual way and method of the governments of the kingdoms of this world: wherefore, for the apostles to affect and desire a superiority to each other, in the kingdom of Christ, was to imitate the Gentiles, and to act according to worldly forms of government; which is very unsuitable to the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, whose kingdom is spiritual, and not of this world.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise {g} dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

(g) Somewhat sharply and roughly.

Matthew 20:25 ff. Those ambitious desires which prompted the request of the sons of Zebedee have likewise a good deal to do with the displeasure of the other disciples. Accordingly, Jesus endeavours to check their ambition by insisting on the humble spirit of the servant as the way to true greatness in the ranks of His followers.

οἱ ἄρχοντες τῶν ἐθν.] the heathen rulers.

κατακυρ.] the intensive force of the compound verb serves to convey the idea of oppressive rule. Comp. Diod. Sic. xiv. 64, and the Sept. passim; see Schleusner; 1 Peter 5:3; Acts 19:16. Similarly with regard to the κατεξους., which occurs nowhere else, and which may be rendered: they practise violence toward.

αὐτῶν] refers in both instances to τ. ἐθνῶν.

οἱ μεγάλοι] the magnates (Hom. Od. xviii. 382, comp. μεγιστᾶνες, Mark 6:21), “ipsis saepe dominis imperiosiores,” Bengel.

οὐχ οὕτως ἐστιν ἐν ὑμῖν] it is not so among you. Observe the present (see critical notes); there is no such order of things among you.

μέγας] great, not equivalent to μέγιστος, but in the sense of: to occupy a high and distinguished place among you. In the sphere to which you belong, true greatness lies in doing service; that is the principle on which you will act. Hence the future ἔσται; for, in the event of any one wishing to become great, he will aim at it by means of serving; the latter is the way to the former.

πρῶτος] one of the first in point of rank, a sort of climax to μέγας, as διάκονος is to δοῦλος. The emphasis in the consequent clauses rests on those two predicates, and hence the emphatic word is placed in each case at the close.

Matthew 20:25. προσκαλεσάμενος: Jesus had to call them to Him, therefore they had had the decency not to quarrel in His presence. Magistro non praesente, Beng.—κατακυριεύουσιν: in the Sept[113] used in the sense of rule, Genesis 1:28, Psalm 72:8; here the connection requires the idea of “lording it over,” the κατὰ having intensive force; so also in the ἅπ. λεγ. κατεξουσιάζουσιν, following = play the tyrant.—τῶν ἐθνῶν: from these occasional references to the outside peoples we get Christ’s idea of the Pagan world; they seek material good (Matthew 6:32), use repetition in prayer (Matthew 6:7), are subject to despotic rule.—οἱ μεγάλοι, the grandees.—αὐτῶν after the two verbs in both cases refers to the ἐθνῶν. Grotius takes the second as referring to the ἄρχοντες, and finds in the passage this sense: the rulers, monarchs, lord it over the people, and their grandees lord it over them, the rulers, in turn; a picture certainly often true to life. Perhaps the intention is to suggest that the rule of the magnates is more oppressive than that of their royal masters: they strain their authority. “Ipsis saepe dominis imperantiores,” Beng.

[113] Septuagint.

25. Jesus called them unto him, and said] Jesus points out the inversion of earthly ideas in the Kingdom of heaven. The gradation and contrast of the original are hardly brought out in E. V. In the Kingdom of heaven the ambition must be to serve not to reign; that Kingdom is in every way the reverse of the kingdoms of the world. In the latter the gradation of rank is (1) the supreme prince; (2) the nobles (the great); (3) the ministers or attendants; (4) the slaves. In the Kingdom of heaven he that will be the noble must be the minister or attendant; he that will be the monarch must be the slave. What Jesus teaches is the dignity of service in the Kingdom of heaven.

The bearing of such passages as this on the alleviation of slavery in the ancient world should be considered. The influence of this towards the abolition of slavery in modern times might have been still greater if the translators had used the word “slave” rather than “servant” in the E. V.

Matthew 20:25. Προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς, having called them to Him) They had been moved, therefore, with indignation when their Master was not present. He avowedly corrects them.—οἴδατε, κ.τ.λ., ye know, etc.) Therefore ye think that it will be the same in the kingdom of the Messiah.—κατακυριεύουσιν [E. V. exercise dominion over]—κατεξουσιάζουσιν [E. V. exercise authority upon]—In both these compound verbs the κατὰ intensifies the signification (see S. V. of Genesis 1:28, and Psalm 72:8), and in this passage distinguishes between the legitimate use and frequent abuse of authority.—οἱ μεγἁλοι, they that are great) sc. ministers of state, who are often more imperious than their lords.

Verse 25. - Called them unto him. The two had stood apart when they made their request, but the ten had overheard it, or judged of its nature from Christ's answer and their own feelings. Jesus now gathers them all round him, and gives them a lesson which they all needed, first, concerning worldly greatness and pre-eminence, and secondly (ver. 26), concerning Christian greatness and pre-eminence. Ye know. He appeals to common experience. Exercise dominion over them; i.e. over the Gentiles. Κατακυριεύουσιν, lord it over - significant of an absolute and oppressive domination. Exercise authority upon them; i.e. over the Gentiles (κατεξουσιάξουσιν); use authority harshly and severely. The heathen, when they are raised to pre-eminence, employ their power cruelly and in order to gain their own ends and purposes, and aspire to superiority only with such objects in view. Such ambition is essentially a heathen passion, and wholly alien from the spirit of Christ. Matthew 20:25
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