What does Matthew 20:28 really mean?

28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


Setting the Scene for Matthew 20:28

In Matthew chapter 20, Jesus is sitting with his disciples in a humble room in Jerusalem. The room is dimly lit by oil lamps, casting a warm glow on the faces of those gathered. The disciples are seated on cushions around a low table, sharing a simple meal of bread and fish. The atmosphere is peaceful, with the sound of quiet conversation and the occasional crackling of the fire in the hearth.

As they sit together, Jesus begins to teach his disciples about the true meaning of greatness and servanthood. He tells them that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” His words hang in the air, challenging the disciples to rethink their understanding of power and authority. The disciples listen intently, their eyes fixed on Jesus as he imparts this profound lesson.

The disciples, including Peter, James, John, and the others, are deeply moved by Jesus’ words. They have been following him for some time now, witnessing his miracles and teachings, but this message strikes a chord deep within their hearts. As they reflect on Jesus’ sacrificial love and servant leadership, they are filled with a sense of awe and gratitude for the opportunity to learn from the Son of God himself.

What is Matthew 20:28 about?

This verse, found in Mark 10:45, holds a powerful message about the essence of true leadership and servitude. It emphasizes the selfless and humble attitude that should characterize those in positions of authority or influence. The verse challenges us to examine our own motivations and actions by stating that even Jesus, referred to as the Son of Man, came to serve rather than to be served. It prompts us to consider whether we are using our positions of power or privilege to benefit ourselves or to genuinely serve others.

Reflecting on this verse can lead us to question our own attitudes towards leadership and service. Are we seeking recognition, rewards, or status through our roles, or are we approaching them with a heart of humility and a desire to uplift and support those around us? It challenges us to redefine what it means to be a leader, emphasizing the importance of empathy, compassion, and a willingness to put the needs of others before our own. We can truly make a positive impact and inspire others to do the same by embodying the spirit of service exemplified by Jesus.

Understanding what Matthew 20:28 really means

Understanding the context within which this verse is situated is the first step to delving into its profound meaning. Jesus is speaking to His disciples, juxtaposing His mission with their misconceptions of greatness and power. This verse serves as a climax to His teaching on humility and service, which is a recurring theme throughout the Gospels.

Core Message
The central message here revolves around service and sacrifice. Jesus explains that true greatness in the Kingdom of God is not about being served, but about serving others. This is further underscored by His ultimate sacrifice, where He gives His life as a ransom for many. This portrayal of leadership through service is both counter-cultural and transformative.

Key Phrases and Their Meanings
Let’s break down some meaningful phrases in this verse. “The Son of Man” refers to Jesus Himself, emphasizing His humanity and His role as the Messiah. The phrase “did not come to be served, but to serve” challenges the worldly understanding of power and authority. Finally, “to give His life as a ransom for many” encapsulates the essence of Jesus’ mission—His sacrificial death to redeem humanity.

Supporting Biblical Passages
Other scriptures reinforce this teaching. Philippians 2:5-8 speaks about Jesus humbling Himself and becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Similarly, Mark 10:43-45 echoes the same sentiment of servant leadership. These passages collectively emphasize that Jesus’ life and mission were rooted in humility, service, and sacrifice.

Relevance Today
Why is this relevant today? Jesus’ model of servant leadership offers a counter-narrative in a world often driven by self-interest and ambition. It calls us to examine our own lives and priorities. Are we striving for personal gain, or are we seeking ways to serve others? This teaching challenges us to redefine success in terms of service rather than status. A nurse, despite her demanding job, volunteers at a local shelter. She sees her work not just as a job but as a calling to serve those in need. Her actions reflect the essence of Jesus’ teaching. Like her, we too can find ways to serve in our communities, making a tangible difference in the lives of others. This verse is a powerful reminder of the true nature of greatness in God’s Kingdom. It invites us to follow Jesus’ example of humility and service. Reflect on this question: How can I serve others in my daily life? What sacrifices am I willing to make for the well-being of those around me? Embracing this mindset can transform not only our lives but also the world around us.

How can we better serve and sacrifice for others?

We can better serve and sacrifice for others by following the example set by Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. This verse teaches us that true service and sacrifice involve putting the needs of others before our own desires and willingly offering ourselves for the benefit of others. We, as followers of Christ, are called to imitate His selfless love and humble service in all aspects of our lives. We demonstrate love and compassion and show obedience to God’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves by humbly serving others. This selfless mindset involves actively seeking ways to alleviate the burdens of others, whether it be through acts of kindness, generosity, or simply being present to listen and support those in need. We can truly reflect the heart of God and embody the selfless service exemplified by Jesus during His time on earth by making the needs and well-being of others a priority in our lives.


You’re at the heart of your workplace and the glue that holds your family together. Imagine what life could be like if you brought the same dedication to serving others around you. Think of Jesus, who spent His life lifting others up rather than seeking His own gain. Will you step up to serve and love with the same selflessness? The world needs more doers and less talkers. Are you ready to be the difference?