Mark 10:35–45: James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward 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 is it 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.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then 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.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So 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. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
When I hear the phase make me a servant I immediately think of the song “Make Me a Servant”. The words go like this:
Make me a servant, humble and meek, Lord, let me lift up those who are weak, and may the prayer of my heart always be: make me a servant, make me a servant, make me a servant today.
I love singing this song and I love the message that it has. But while it is a beautiful song to sing it is not quite so easy to live. Matter of fact the concept of being a servant may even be hard for us to understand. James and John had to be reminded of this in the scripture from Mark.
They wanted Jesus to do whatever they ask of him. And what they wanted was to sit on each of his sides in his glory. Jesus told them that they didn’t understand what they were asking for. They did not realize that Jesus would have to suffer nor did they understand they must, as well. James and John requested positions of honor. They were unaware of their own callings to servanthood. This scripture highlights important challenges. First, as followers of Jesus, we face the same question as James and John: Are we willing to drink the same cup as Jesus? Second, our journey as Christians is not one of power, position, or recognition. Third, servant leadership is vital.
James and John were worried about themselves and the place that they would have. We also may fall into the misdirected desire to worry more about ourselves than serving others. As Christian we need to recognize that the journey we are on is not about prestige or power or lifting ourselves up. It is a journey of service – service to God and service to others. Servanthood is so important not only with our church community but also in our families, our communities and in every part of our lives.
Our society is so much about “me” – what’s in it for me, how does it affect me? It is about the comforts that we have in life that many times can distract us. If we focus too much on ourselves and our own problems we may tend to not be aware of those who are less fortunate – the people who are poor (or poorer) and people who are marginalized. They may be far removed from us and we may become insensitive to them and the life they lead.
In this scripture we are called into service as servants. Jesus’ description of Christian leadership, “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wished to be first among you must be slave of all”. This is as important today as it was when Jesus told it to his disciples.
Many times we don’t understand what it means to follow Jesus. We don’t grasp the meaning of our discipleship. We become competitive with one another. We become overly self-concerned. We want to exercise our leadership the way the world teaches us to lead rather than by service. We are called to help carry the burdens of others, to help them on their journey. We are called to “lift up those who are weak”. We must “humble” ourselves in service to others and to God. How this looks will vary for each person but as you look at your own life – think of how you can be in service to others.
In my home congregation each August we provide free lunches three days a week for anyone who wants to join us. When we originally started this program it was to help fill a gap between the time when children stop getting lunches at summer school until the time school started. We decided early on that we wanted to feed anyone who walk through our doors, not just school aged children. Over the years we have been doing this, we have served thousands of lunches and made relationship with many people. Some who come to lunch really need the food, it may be the only meal that they have that day. Others come in because they are seeking companionship and this gives them opportunity to talk with someone for a short while. Whatever the reason they come to lunch, our congregation has built wonderful relationship with many people. This call to servanthood has not only blessed those that we serve but has very rich blessed those of us doing the serving. That is what a life of servanthood does – it blesses all.
Jesus calls us to the path of discipleship and this path calls us to servanthood – service to our fellow beings. Jesus teaches us by his own life and ministry that discipleship, however, is not about seeking places of honor but about serving others. And serving others is the only path to real glory.