Who will be first?
Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus' exhortation to become a servant came at a time where two of the disciples were vying for a position of honor at the greatest party in the entire universe...not an exaggeration. The sons of Zebedee, James and John, were asking for positions of authority and power when Jesus finally overturns the Roman empire and establishes his kingdom on earth. They missed the first key of the kingdom is that it is not a kingdom of this world, but of heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is not glamorous or attractive. Jesus daily lived with the authority of the heavenly kingdom and did not have earthly riches or popularity. The opposite was true. The more Jesus preached the heavenly kingdom, the fewer the followers. "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—" (John 1:12, NIV). It was not until Pentecost that the kingdom of heaven would be experienced, in part, on earth. Those precious sons of Zebedee would realize the foolish thing they had requested and began to live a life of power and authority unlike anything they could have imagined. They would eventually "drink the bitter cup of suffering" when persecution began in earnest toward the early Church, but hopefully, they were equipped with the attitude of Christ.
Even today, these kingdom principles of power and servanthood sail over the heads of Christian leaders. They feel as if they should be getting credit when ministry is going well and want to call down fire when it is not (also James and John in Luke 9). Thankfully, the surrendered leader will hear God's voice reminding them they cannot have the power of his Holy Spirit without or the bitter cup of suffering without the attitude of Jesus. "Who, being in very nature a God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant (Phil. 2:6-7, NIV).