“James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. ‘Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.’ ‘What is it? I’ll see what I can do.’ ‘Arrange it,’ they said, ‘so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.’ Jesus said, ‘You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?’ ‘Sure,’ they said. ‘Why not?’Jesus said, ‘Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.’ When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down. ‘You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,’ he said, ‘and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage’.” Mark 10:35-45 (MSG)


When has a customer at a five star restaurant gotten up in the middle of dinner, gone to the kitchen, and put on an apron? It would be an unlikely occurrence. The customer has come to the restaurant to enjoy the excellent food and quality service. There is an expectation that they will be waited on for their meal. But, this expectation can sometimes flood into the rest of our lives. Instead of jumping at the opportunity to serve, we sit, waiting for someone else to do the job.

James and John were discussing among themselves a strategic opportunity. What if they could get Jesus to guarantee their positions in heaven? If they asked before the other disciples, then surely they would have some clout in the decision. Once the other disciples found out, they were infuriated! How dare James and John ask such a question! Yet, Jesus wasn’t as much concerned about their question as he was the heart behind the question. He was going to completely unravel their current philosophy. If the disciples wanted to be great in the kingdom of God, then they should serve. Allow yourself to be in the position that would be considered lowly and unwanted in order to bless another person. Not only did Jesus share this message; He lived it. He understood that the bigger picture of reaching people was far greater than the name and fame he could have created for himself.  He could have set up a throne or overthrown the current rulers of the day. However, He understood His mission to give His life away so that others may find true life in Him. It can be easy to look down on James and John for asking such a question, but on occasion, we probably have been guilty of it ourselves. We want the name and fame.  We want the publicized ministry, career, position, or success. We want to prove to God our “greatness” through our merit. And Jesus comes to us, reminding us of the way to greatness. It is not about what other people can do for you. What can you do for someone else? How can you put aside your entitlement to be served in order to serve? It is not natural. We are not born with an innate desire to do something for someone else. So instead of securing your position and flaunting your authority, you will find the fulfillment you are seeking in laying it down and giving your life away.

Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002.  Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.