Monday (3/23/20) - Lord God, by your Word fill me with a spirit of love and servanthood
Mark 10:35-45 - Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” “What is your request?” he asked. They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We see it frequently – people calling in favors to get ahead. I was always told that you have to know someone to climb that old corporate ladder. And in my experience, it’s often true. Those people who are well connected seem to do better than those who are well qualified and skilled. It shouldn't surprise us that this philosophy has been around for many, many years. It had to be true back in Jesus’ time because we see two of his disciples asking for a favor.
They tried to ask this favor quietly but once all the other disciples heard about it, there were problems. Thankfully, Jesus stepped in and calmed everyone just before he challenged their understanding of how things should work. Jesus pointed out that it was the rulers and authorities of this world who were always trying to sell this idea of getting ahead no matter what. Jesus turned that idea around and told his disciples that if they really wanted to get ahead, they had to become a slave or a servant to everyone else. That was just as counter-culture in the disciple’s world as it is in ours.
But think of how this world would be different if we focused on serving each other and making each other the priority instead of ourselves. There might be a whole lot less fighting and anger and so much more love and kindness. That is the example Christ gave to us through his life. Understand that he wasn’t just nice for social reasons and to make the world a “better place”. He became a servant in order to reach the people with the truth of salvation. He served so that he could share the message that everyone of us needs to hear – that we are sinners and we need forgiveness. That is why we are called to be like Christ and to become servants. Yes, we want to change the world and make people’s lives better. But more importantly, we want to help people change their eternal destiny. That is the greatest act of love we can give.
By the way, when Jesus said that James and John would share the same bitterness that he would face, he wasn’t kidding. James was martyred for his faith in Christ and beheaded by King Herod. John lived to a ripe old age but only after he survived being thrown in to a cauldron of boiling oil and then exiled to the island of Patmos. Thankfully, they matured in Christ from the example in today’s text and both men became strong leaders in the early church and lived lives that showed what it meant to be a true servant. Now it is our turn to go and be servants to others.