In Mark 10:35-45, Jesus once again told his disciples everything that would happen to him in Jerusalem-his trial, death, resurrection and ascension. James and John seized this opportunity to ask for the highest positions of honour in his kingdom-at the right and left hands of Jesus. They forgot that God controls the final destiny of each and every one of us. They expected a moment of glory, and they wanted to enjoy it. No wonder Peter and the rest of the disciples were upset. Jesus saw that a power struggle was developing, and he had to do something about it.
The disciples would have been wise to remember the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” Jesus warned them that they would suffer like he would suffer. He told them that they would be martyred for their faith, and in fact they were martyred for their faith. James was the first of the disciples to die for Christ. John was the last. He died in exile as an old man on the Greek island of Patmos.
Sometimes we have the idea that if we follow Jesus we are guaranteed to receive a reward. When that happens we forget that Jesus’ ministry was one of serving others. He gave himself for the sake of others, including suffering for their salvation. Christians today should be just as willing to suffer with Christ as they are to reign with him. Nowhere is this more evident than in countries where being a Christian could lead to jail, physical harm and even death. In our part of the world we may never have to suffer the same consequences for following Christ, but there will be times where we will have to endure our own brand of trials because of our faith. We must remember that if we suffer here on earth for our faith, we will be greatly rewarded in heaven.
Power as the standard of greatness corrupts people. You only have to look at some politicians to see that this is the case. People who are corrupted by power fail to realize that there is only a limited amount of power to go around. They want to protect their position, while people who don’t have power want it. If power is a standard of greatness in any organization, including the church, ambition will rule and jealousy will reign.
Pride wants strokes, and lots of them. Pride loves to get the credit, to be mentioned, to receive glory. For example, those of you who are in the workplace have likely been in situations where your bosses should have given you the credit you deserved, but for whatever reason they didn’t. When that happened, your pride had to be kept in check.
Jesus had the right to be mad at the disciples, but he realized that they were slowly beginning to understand what ministry would involve. He chose to teach them the meaning of true greatness by comparing human standards of greatness with God’s standard of servanthood. In Jesus’ vision, greatness is equal to servanthood. Jesus redefined the true nature of greatness. To be great does not mean to lord it over someone. It means to willingly serve under someone. By giving his own life as a ransom, Jesus-the Suffering Servant mentioned in Isaiah 53:10-12-would soon show his followers ultimate humility.
When we care about the things that hurt others, our hearts will be opened to their pain, and that openness will lead to its own suffering. We need to see other people and realize their importance to God. True humility and love for others flows from the infinite love God has for his people. Christ gave his life to God the Father as a ransom to pay for the sins of the people. The cup Jesus was to drink from was God’s wrath. Jesus bore God’s wrath in the place of sinful mankind. The cup the disciples would drink from would purify them and give God glory.
When we follow God, we lay the foundation for God’s kingdom here on earth. We have been saved by the greatness of Jesus, and in return we are to serve Jesus by serving others. Someone led us to Christ, so we must lead others to Christ. Someone helped us to grow spiritually, so in return we must help others grow spiritually. Someone was kind to us, and in return we are to be kind to others.
This can be hard to remember in our fast-paced world. It can be easy to lose sight of what it means to be great in God’s eyes, but if we slow down and open our eyes we will see that opportunities to serve are all around us. It’s easy to find them when we are at home. For example, we can do someone else’s chores or prepare a special meal. We can also serve outside of our homes as well. We can hold the door for a mom pushing a stroller or for someone who is carrying something in their arms. Regardless of what we do, we must serve gladly, because the person we are serving could be an angel in disguise. When we serve others as Jesus served us, we will know the true meaning of greatness. Being called by God is not an invitation of ease and special treatment, but is an invitation to abundant life.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 25: Mark (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 29th Sunday (B).” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- Wendy Pope, “Serving Others.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Charles R. Swindoll, “To Serve and to Give.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Charles R. Swindoll, “A Servant, Not a Celebrity.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Pastor Dave Risendal, “You’re Gonna Have to Serve Somebody.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org