Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To be first, be the slave of all

Mark 10:35-45 NLT  
  35 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.” 
  36 “What is your request?” he asked. 
  37 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.” 
  38  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?
  39 “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. 40 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.”
  41 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant.  42 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.  43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.  44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.  45 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.”

The other Gospels have this request put forth, first by Mrs. Zebedee, their mother, whom the ambitious disciples, no doubt, put up to the task. Many times Jesus had spoken of 'asking what you want to in my name' so the boys were doing what he had asked weren't they? No, their request betrays their motive. To ask to sit at Jesus' right and left hand was to request to be made ruler over all the others of the Body of Christ, who will rule with Jesus. It was to request to be supreme ruler next only to God. Their request also shows they did not yet fully appreciate to whom they were talking. Even the most extreme egos would not dare to ask God to make them higher than everyone else under God. Jesus' sensitivity and compassion is revealed in his response. The Ten others were upset, but not because the sons of Zebedee had asked this unthinkable request. No, they were concerned that they had asked it BEFORE the rest could get up the nerve to do it instead. Was it any wonder Jesus had nick-named James and John the "sons of thunder!'

Jesus made clear that to ask this request brought with it the commitment to endure limitless self-sacrifice-- to drink the cup and receive the baptism-- that was assigned to the Lord. One ought to be mindful what one asks the God of the universe because one just might be granted it. Jesus told them that extreme sacrifice was indeed in their future. James would be tortured and then killed with a sword.  John, though living to old age would be repeatedly tortured and ultimately boiled in oil.

The larger issue was revealed in the Lord's response. Places of great honor are determined by God alone and are not the result of efforts made or even of our requests. More than likely the ones invited to the front table at the 'great wedding feast of the Lamb in Heaven will, at first, look around to wonder to whom is the Lord speaking when He points to them and calls them forward. More than likely these will be ones who lived lives so much in humble service that recognition of their accomplishment had rarely, if ever crossed their mind.

Jesus taught those disciples, and us as well, that to seek a place of 'lording it over' others was to be far from anything that members of the Bride of Christ should ever think. Those who think they want to lead should serve more, and more. True leadership is in service rather than in manipulating and controlling. True leadership is being a blessing to others in ways that leaves them wondering by whom were they blessed. The greatest leadership is the lowest task of service to another, done in love and without thought for anything in return.

Notice verse 43, Jesus says that "it WILL be different among" us who follow Him. That was a prophetic statement. By the power of the Holy Spirit within us we, who follow the Lord shall serve selflessly and without thought of return. We will just give until we have given out the entirety of whom we are. I find, however, that the more we give of ourselves, the more there appears back in our reservoir to give again tomorrow. I haven't been able to come to the end of the resources within me to serve others--without caring who gets the credit. Have you?. Perhaps I should try to give-out myself a little more, what do you think?

Your servant in Christ's Love

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