And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10.35-45 ESV)
Then, after they heard what Jesus said about him being betrayed, beaten and killed, James and John asked Jesus to make them strong and powerful in the new kingdom. It sounds like there is a disconnect between what Jesus is saying is going to happen and what the disciples believe will really happen. They don’t really believe that Jesus is going to die much less that three days later, he is going to be raised from the dead. He is just fooling around and trying to see what they are going to do.
Unfortunately, the disconnect is all too common and still happens. The interesting thing about all this though is that Jesus plays along with James and John, asking them, “What do you want me to do for you?” The brothers ask for power and authority and a good place in government in the new creation. So Jesus asks them, “Can you suffer with me and share in the pain I bear? Will you let yourselves drown?” Maybe they should have sat down and really thought about what they were saying. They we ready to do what it took to make themselves powerful and to have position and authority over others so long as it was within reach for them and in the power of Jesus to grant it to them.
Jesus, taking a deep breath says to the brothers, “Okay, you will follow and become like me and share in my pain and my trails. But as for where you will sit and what you will have, that is not for me to say. That is not in my hands.”
We are called by Christ to go with him and in the going, to learn to seek and to see and to embrace those we find. In particular those who are in need of care of love, those who need to be suffered with and give compassion to those who are in pain. In doing so we are to get rid of our plans and agendas. We are to seek out Christ in others and serve them instead of contemplating our next play for power and for position. Who are we not serving because we are seeking our own self interests? Who have we missed that might have been strengthened and enabled if we had worried more about them, instead of accruing and accumulating for our own selfish gain?
Ultimately, we are taught to follow and to imitate the person and life of Christ as a way to serve and not a way to fulfil our greeds. Service and servanthood are about meeting the needs of the other and in so doing allowing God to supply both them and us. If we do not learn to seek and are not determined to see Christ, then how can we serve God in the Holy Spirit? By serving and loving others, we can help our city to see who Christ is and is for them. And we can never know the full depths of how God impacts other people’s lives through us.
Take a chance this week and choose to serve someone and see how that transforms the relationship you have with that person and how it grows and shapes both of you. I pray that we can become together God’s opus of obedient servants and a symphony of service to God and to our city.