The disciples were arguing. They were jockeying for position. They were trying to make sure that they were in good standing with Jesus in His kingdom with no regard as to where anyone else might be. James and John had just asked Jesus if one of them could sit at His right hand and the other at His left in the new kingdom. Jesus told them that they didn’t know what they were asking. And then the other disciples got upset with James and John. The text doesn’t say whether they were upset by the request or just upset that James and John had thought of it first. I imagine that if Jesus ever rolled His eyes, this was a time He would have done so.
Jesus reminds the twelve that the values of the kingdom are vastly different than the values of the world. He states that greatness is found when one takes the role of a servant. He reminds them that being on top means a willingness to be the servant of others. That message was quite different from the values of their world. And it is quite different from the values of our world as well. While two thousand years have passed since this event took place, most people in our world today are still trying to position themselves for greatness and prestige and promotion. Being a servant of others is not highly valued.
In my mind, the most important thing that Jesus taught His disciples that day was the statement, “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.” He not only taught them about servanthood, He modeled it. Jesus not only reminded and urged His disciples to give up position to love and care for others, He lived it out. Jesus was literally the walking, breathing illustration of the very thing He was trying to teach.
It’s easy to get caught up in a desire for greatness, for promotion and recognition. It’s far more challenging to remember that in God’s Kingdom those things are found when we give up our personal rights and place the needs of others ahead of our own. I wonder whom I might sacrificially serve and care for today with the love of Jesus?