As I mentioned in my last blog, though Jesus had been as crystal clear with the disciples as he possibly could, they still didn’t get it. They still didn’t get why he was there, and what was facing them. Because if they had, I can’t imagine that James and John would have asked Jesus what they did, prompted by their mother or not.
Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory. (Mark 10:37)
One wonders how Jesus felt. Here he had just told them that he was going to die, and they were fighting for position in his kingdom. And so he said,
You don’t know what you are asking…Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? (38)
In other words, “Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve been saying? I’m going to die. You want to die on my right and left?”
That’s what he meant, but as usual, Jesus’ words went right over their heads, and they replied, “We can.”
Jesus then told them,
You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with. (39)
And in time, both of them would suffer for Christ. James was beheaded, and John was forced into exile.
But Jesus also told them,
But to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared. (40)
When the other disciples heard about James’ and John’s request, they became indignant. Why? Because James and John were so insensitive to Jesus’ plight? No, they were indignant because they hadn’t thought of asking Jesus first. And each of them thought they were more qualified than the others.
But Jesus pulled them together, and he told them,
You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
Essentially what Jesus told them was, “Guys, you need a little attitude readjustment. All of you are so worried about your position in my kingdom, because you think that a high position means a cushy life. That it means ordering people around, and having them obey your every whim.
“But that’s not what greatness in my kingdom means. If you truly want to be great, you need to serve. And if you want to be at the very top, you need to be the slave of all. After all, I’m not here to have other people serve me. I’m here to serve and give my life for them.”
I’ve got to admit, I’m far from having this kind of attitude. And it’s a struggle sometimes, because it’s so easy to compete and compare myself with others. But when we do ministry, the point is not to show ourselves better than others, it’s to serve them.
This is true not just in ministry, but in every aspect of life. At work, we need to be serving our customers and coworkers.
And in our homes, men especially need to have this kind of attitude as head of the household. An attitude of serving their wives and children.
And to be honest, I fail far too often in all three arenas.
And so I guess my prayer is the one that James and John offered in that old Christian musical “The Witness.” After hearing Jesus’ words, they prayed,
Lord make me like you. Please make me like you.
You are a servant. Make me one too.
O Lord I am willing.
Do what you must do to make me like you Lord.
Make me like you.
Whatever you do Lord, please make me like you.