They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
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.”
How difficult it is for us to enter into a relationship with God with a servant’s heart! We are always thinking of what God can do for us, how our lives will be blessed, how we can become a better person. While I would certainly never be bold enough to ask to sit at God’s right hand, “we want you to do whatever we ask of you” should be the catch-phrase of the 21st Century Church! We are always asking, asking, asking, with only our own agenda in mind.
But Jesus says that if we want to be great we must be servants. We should think of everyone else before we ever think of ourselves. Just as Jesus gave His life for us, we need to give our lives for others.
For me personally, this is the hardest thing Jesus ever asked. Even when I’m trying not to be, I am a thoroughly selfish person. I wish there was some kind of trick, that I could just push a button and start thinking of others first. But when I look to examples like Mother Theresa, I am completely confounded. I have no idea how she did it. I feel completely clueless in this area of faith. But I feel like, as with so many other parts of life, I should fake it ’til I make it. I should act the way I want to think and feel, and maybe eventually the internal stuff will follow. Not that there’s any Scriptural evidence for this approach… Honestly it’s just the only one I know.