Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, ‘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 10:35-37, 41-45 (NIV)
it is easy to read about this incident in Mark’s gospel and to presume that it was only James and John who were in the wrong. Of course they were in the wrong. They were seeking to elevate themselves above the rest of the disciples by asking Jesus if they could have pride of place, on his right and left, when he entered his kingdom. Jesus doesn’t rebuke them, but tells them that he doesn’t have authority to decide on this as it has already been decided by the Father.
Notice the reaction of the rest of the disciples. We are told that they were not just put out by James and John’s request, they were ‘indignant’ with them. No one was taking things calmly at this point. James and John were probably annoyed at the disciples’ reaction and the disciples were definitely annoyed with James and John. The only one seeing things clearly was Jesus.
Jesus didn’t waste the opportunity to teach his disciples an important truth. He knew that while James and John may have been self-seeking in their request, the reaction of the remaining disciples revealed a problem common to them all. Jesus identified the tendency we all have to want to feel important and to want to exercise authority over others. What he says is quite astounding! He says, ‘Not so with you’. In these four words is encapsulated the profound truth that the way of the kingdom is not the way of the world. In the world people strive for position, believing this demonstrates how important they are. Yet Jesus tells his disciples that the road to greatness is through being a servant and slave. As Jesus himself came to serve, so he expects his followers to be willing to serve others.
What is your reaction to what Jesus says? In what areas of your life do you need to take seriously the words ‘Not so with you’?
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