Jesus told his disciples for the third time that he was on the way to Jerusalem to suffer and die (Mark 10:32-34). James and John reveal that they have no idea what Jesus is talking about by the conversation that ensues, because they are more focused on themselves and their status than what Jesus has promised he is about to do.
First, James and John demand Jesus do what they ask of him (Mark 10:35), treating Jesus as their subordinate.
Second, James and John ask for positions of power at his ‘right hand and left hand’ once Jesus ‘comes in to his glory’ (Mark 10:37). Even after all Jesus has done to heal the sick, cast out demons, forgive sinners, feed the hungry, love the poor, connect the outcast, rebuke the religious establishment, and teach about a different kind of kingdom of grace, mercy and peace; they still understood Jesus to be the one to overthrow their Roman occupiers, not as one who came to suffer and die at the hands of sinners for the sake of the world.
Third, James and John upset their fellow disciples for even making such a request of Jesus, clamoring for positions of privilege selfishly for themselves (Mark 10:41).
Jesus responds by telling them they have no idea what they are asking (Mark 10:40). While they are thinking of attaining power, privilege and prestige once Jesus establishes his authority; Jesus is preparing to drink the cup that is before him (see Mark 14:36); one that will lead to his death.
Jesus then reminds them (and us) what his mission is all about – selflessness humility and service.
In this upside-down age Jesus is bringing to bear; it will not be power, privilege and prestige that matter, but in how we live our lives for others. Power, privilege and prestige focus on what we can get from others whose purpose it is to give us what we seek and desire.
Jesus came not to be served but to serve. The way of Jesus is the way of service. Service offers our lives for the sake of others to make their lives better.
No one shows us how to serve selflessly with humility to live a life worth living for others better than Jesus does – and his greatest act for others is the cross.
Perhaps the ‘ransom’ Jesus offers by giving his life for the many (Mark 10:45) on the cross is not only salvation from sin and death, but also brings about our deliverance and liberation from only seeking to serve ourselves. Jesus reminds us that a faith that lives in the here and now is focused on service to others – a truth we sometimes too easily forget as we long for the age to come.
What are some ways you could serve others; rather than looking on them to serve you?
What might this turn-around do within your relationships?
How could looking at the world for places you can serve – change you?