“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask… Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:35, 37)
James and John. They were two of Jesus’ disciples, in fact two of Jesus’ closest disciples (together with Peter). As proof, Jesus singled them out among the twelve on many occasions, as in the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37) and in the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2).
This is probably where they were coming from when they asked Jesus that request. They were James and John—THE James and John. They were part of the Big Three. So they felt entitled. So much so that they, ironically, demanded from their Master: we want you to do for us whatever we ask; that each of us would sit at your side in your glory. How selfishly ambitious and utterly arrogant!
But we, too, tend to be like them at times. Remember these ‘prayers’? Give me this, Lord. Give me, that. Here. Now. How about these lines? I’ve been attending church consistently. I’ve been serving in the ministry for years. So You HAVE to reward me with this, Lord!
Yes, we, too, have been like James and John. We tend to forget that He is God and that we, well, are not… not as powerful or as intelligent or as strong as we think. So let us look at how Jesus answered them so that we, too, may remember.
Have the right perspective. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized in the baptism I am baptized with?” (v.38)
The names of the Bible greats were not written there for nothing. They did not just sit and stare. They paid a price—a high price. Let’s consider Noah, the seemingly ridiculous command of God, and the truly ridiculous comments of his peers. Or Joseph and the thirteen long years batted with all kinds of trials and tests. And let’s not forget Job, minus all his livestock and children—but plus the boils all over his body.
We say we want to be great men and women of God? Then, let us remember Jesus’ words. Can we drink the cup, with all the pain and suffering it entails? While Noah did survive the flood, Joseph did save his family and all Egypt from the famine, and Job did receive double blessings from God—they first drank the cup. Because greatness is borne in and through the lowest and toughest experiences.
Have the right attitude. “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (v.43-44)
The world tells us we have to make it big—big salary, big savings, big house, big name. Let us be clear here: there is absolutely nothing wrong with having all those big things; God calls all those blessings. What is wrong, though, is the attitude of being big: when we look down at our fellowman whose salary or name is not as big… when we look at the mirror and conclude that the reflection we see is far, far bigger than others… and when we don’t look up anymore to recognize the only One who IS big.
Do we really want to make it big? Then it’s time that we take each other’s hand, celebrating each other’s strengths and filling in each other’s weaknesses; and, more importantly, it’s time that we finally take that nail-pierced hand that has been reached out to us all for the past two thousand years. Because, really, on our own, we are nothing. We are weak, broken, and empty.
Have the right model. “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.” (v.45)
Probably because of the many achievements and feats we have accomplished, or the many skills and talents we are capable of, or the many topics and disciplines we are knowledgeable of, that we think we are somebody and not just anybody… that we find it really hard to put others first.
But if we will just look at the King of kings and Lord of lords who created the entire universe with just a “Let there be”—how He left His throne in all its splendor to walk among the poor, touch the sick and the outcasts, receive utter scorn and humiliation, endure whips and lashes, and die the worst man’s death on the Cross—if THE God stooped that low, why can’t we? Why shouldn’t we?
All these said, may the prayer of our hearts be, “Teacher, we want to do for You whatever You ask. Help us to have the right perspective and to gain the right attitude as we tread on the path of selfless service which You Yourself have modeled to us.”