Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (verses 25-28)
The disciples – intensely – are jockeying for position. James and John, with their mother leading the way, have confronted Jesus with a self-serving request, namely prime positions (as perceived by them) in the Kingdom. They’ve rightly understood that the Kingdom is the true reality. They have true faith that Jesus is Lord. They’ve got it right that this future is certain. But they want to work it for their own advantage, locking-in their own pre-eminence.
The other disciples, hearing about it, are indignant, not on principle,but for fear of missing out. Why didn’t they think of this first? Ask and you will receive, right? What if those Sons of Thunder end up squeezing them out?
But Jesus turns the whole discussion on its head, defusing all its rancour and competitive angst. The Kingdom’s not that way, he says. Kingdom greatness looks entirely different. Having position and status and authority is not what it’s about – rather, taking the lowly position of servant, indeed slave.
A short time later the disciples would have an unforgettable image emblazoned on their minds, Jesus kneeling before them, towel-wrapped, washing their grimy feet, an image rivalled only by the subsequent sighting of Jesus immobilized on the cross. Such service becomes the lifeblood of the Kingdom. Only on its basis are the gates of the Kingdom opened wide. Such service becomes the marching order for all who enter in.
So, what Son-of-Man-like act will I engage in today? What temptation to recognition and status can I push aside, willingly stepping down to a lower position? What rights must I hold loosely in order to live Kingdom-minded? Whose grimy need will I take in hand, serving like Jesus?
O dear Jesus, Lord of the Kingdom, please, please give me the opportunity today to be like you. Give me eyes to see it. And when it arises, however unexpected it may be, give me boldness to look less-than, to come down, to set-aside, and to serve. May this attitude be in me that also was, and is, in you.
Eyes open: Watch for a Christ-given opportunity to serve today, as a servant. Determine now you will embrace it when it comes, whether big or small. -