Mark 10:37-38 – Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory. "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. (NIV)
A memory from my early school years is of two classmates, Donald and Adam. These were the self-appointed leaders of our class. Whatever the circumstances, whether in the classroom or on the playground, they always insisted on being first. They were bold, aggressive, and energetic. Their leadership was not challenged.
One day, many of the class were involved in trouble on the campus. The entire group was taken to the principal's office. True to their nature, Donald and Adam wanted to be first. The principal obliged. After he disciplined the two, he used them as examples, and dismissed the others. They never asked to be first again.
Jesus used a similar method with James and John. They wanted to be first in Jesus' kingdom. Not only did they not know what they were asking; they had violated the unity of the group. At the worst, they had violated the teachings of their Lord. Jesus used this request as a teaching moment to give insight to James and John, as well as to the other disciples. He pointed out to them the difference between the culture around them and what it would be like in the kingdom He was talking about.
Mark 10:44 – And whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. (NRSV)
This was definitely not what the disciples wanted to hear, and it's not what we want to hear today. There's something about our human nature that wants to be first. Our culture teaches that hard work, diligent study, and quick action lead us to be the first and the best.
Is this the message we want to hear?
Prayer: Lord, give us servant hearts that desire to serve You and others, and not promote our own self-interests. Amen.