Mark 10:41 – 43
41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
The other disciples were not happy with James and John, and that is to put it mildly! They were, in fact, angry! And somehow, I do not believe it was because James and John failed to understand the nature of the kingdom, but, perhaps, because James and John had gone behind their backs and asked for something each of them was hoping to receive! Each was secretly hoping to be the one most honored when Jesus took his rightful place as king – and they are not thinking of the true kingdom, still, but of Israel and an earthly kingdom.
Jesus calls them together, and says they are thinking of Gentile kingdoms, where the rulers are tyrants. How often people let power go to their heads! But this should not be the case among them. Whoever wishes to be great or first among them must be a servant, and a slave to all! For Jesus, calling himself “Son of Man” as he often does in Mark’s gospel (this is a reference to the coming of the promised one in Daniel and in Isaiah), says even he came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
How often we fall short of this command! It is stated also in the gospel of John, when, after washing the disciples feet, Jesus says, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet (served them as the lowliest of slaves) you also ought to wash one another’s feet (serve one another).” (John 13:14) In another place, Jesus speaks of the scribes and Pharisees who seek places of honor.
If we seek to be followers of Jesus, we must serve others, as he served, rather than seeking the places of honor – in society, in the church, in our positions. And if we do have a position of authority, we must take great care to use it to serve others rather than to be served.