After Jesus shares his death by crucifixion and ultimate resurrection the mother of James and John approaches him and asks if her sons can sit at his left and righthand. The places of honor in his kingdom. Now I can’t blame her, after all she is a mom, and her boys gave up all to follow Jesus. And this is especially understandable when in the conversation Jesus later reveals they will also “drink of the cup” he is about to drink from, meaning they would suffer for the cause of Christ.
Jesus asks the brothers if they are willing, and thus worthy of this, to which they respond in the affirmative. Hearing of this audacious request the other ten disciples “are indignant” with their two colleagues. It’s not in the text but I can hear them shouting “Who do you think you are?”, and “hey, what about us?”
It says: “Jesus called them together”, gets them in a disciple huddle. He tells them that the gentiles, meaning the world, looks at top down hierarchies based on high stature, accomplishments, and earning the right to hold places of honor. Indeed, even to today our world is set up this way, even in our churches and Christian ministries. It’s about achievement and stature in how we are often elevated and honored.
But Jesus says: “not so with you, instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave”. I think we all get this and say “yes of course”, but really do we want to be “slaves”? Do we really respect and honor and elevate those who are best at being the most humble servants among us? Or those who are willing to give up the most, versus accomplish the most?
Recently I was told my title was “Recruiter”, not “Director of Recruitment”. My reaction was worldly. Immediately what went through my head were thoughts and rationales that I have served 20+ years as a director, I have experience, I have proven myself, I was recruited here for my expertise! I was indignant.
The next morning I prayed and was convicted of my selfishness and self-centeredness. At my prideful feelings of having a “Director” title. I gave it up to the Lord and said (admittedly, rather reluctantly) to myself: “ok your will be done”, and “just be humble”.
Turns out there was a misunderstanding and my title is “Director” which made me feel good. But I was made very aware by my reaction – that this is exactly what Jesus was talking about. It should be: “not so with you”. We are to be servants, slaves. These are not pleasant feel good titles. And I did not want that title, in fact I am pretty sure I still don’t!
I am still processing this. The sequence was an email at 4pm, reaction all that evening, quiet time reflection and “resignation” to a biblical principle the next morning, then the “correction”. And now I am still reviewing how I journeyed through this incident. Kind of like a two-by-four upside the head while looking in the mirror.
Thank God that he does not give us more than we can handle. Thank God for his loving tender grace and mercy and the patience of the Lord. It is not easy to deal with our humanity but I am convinced we are better off when we do. I am convinced that as I am working through this lesson Jesus is walking with me and nudging me to be more aware of myself and on a journey to be more like him. It’s not always easy or fun, but it is good.