Mark 10:35-45: True greatness.

“35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’  36 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. 37 They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ 38 ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?’ 39 ‘We can,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with, 40 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.’ 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 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. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 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.’ ’ ” NIV UK

There is something incongruous about this request, following on, as it does, from Jesus’ words about His suffering and death. These guys really didn’t get it.

It’s been suggested that James and John may have made their bold request out of a desire to be close to Jesus (37). However, judging by what Jesus said later when He gathered the group together (41-45), this was about the quest for greatness. I reckon the other disciples were angry with the pair (41) because they secretly had their eyes on the top jobs. In fact, the way Jesus addresses them suggests that this was the case. Jesus, of course, showed supernatural insight. Maybe this is one of those occasions. But the uncomfortable truth is we give ourselves away all too easily.

The desire for greatness seems to be ‘in-built’ in human beings. Why would anyone want to be mediocre? Jesus did not attack the desire for greatness, but He re-defined what true greatness looks like. He spelled out that the ‘top’ positions in the Kingdom are at the ‘bottom’. Would we still like to have them?

Well, He ‘check-mates’ us in the final statement (45). No-one was so high as Him, and no-one would ever stoop so low. The greatest leadership models the standard that others are expected to follow.

PRAYER: Lord, may I never resist the call of the Kingdom to humble service.