James and John run ahead of the group to ask Jesus a question. They asked, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." These two disciples were zealous for the victory of Jesus, but they were ignorant of His way.
In Mark 8, Jesus asks Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" to which Peter replies, "You are the Christ." Peter was answering from a historical perspective. Things in Israel used to be "good". There was a lot of power, prestige, and victory. Then bad times had come and there had been several hundred years of oppression. During all of this, the people knew a hero was coming to restore everything that was lost. There were many "Messiahs" that came to try. Several made significant changes through power and military prowess. Peter thought he had found his movement. Team Jesus would make Israel great again.
James and John can feel it coming. They are dreaming about what they can accomplish in this new system where Jesus is in charge. Many of us who have realized that Jesus is the Messiah also want Him to clean up our world. We want Jesus to win...in the courts, in the White House, in our schools, and in our homes. We "think" Jesus want that too, but He replies to James and John with "You do not know what you are asking." They had a different view of what Jesus was all about.
Two places where they got Jesus wrong:
- They got HIs mission wrong. Jesus did not come to gain any military or national power. He was here to die. James and John assumed their goals were Jesus' goals. They were too confident.
- They got His methods wrong. In verse 42 He said to them, "rulers lorded over them". To lord over someone is to use power and subdue them, which is the world's way of getting things done. We strive for more power and dominance in our businesses, in sports, and in our churches. In verse 43 He goes on to say, "not so with you", where Jesus is teaching them that is not about leadership, but about participating in the Kingdom of God.
Whatever you do by force, you have received your reward in full. Domineering is not about the Kingdom of God.
The crux of Jesus' ministry is found in verse 45 when He says, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." The phrase "Son of Man" is synonymous with the most powerful human that has the most authority. That man gave His life, so how much more should we give our lives?
As we reflect today, here are a few questions to discuss:
- What does it mean that "we should be less confident about what God is doing?" Why should be more confident that Jesus is the Messiah, even when our goals fail?
- How do you wield dominance to get things done? In your marriage, in your job, as a parent?
- How is the church's power counter to the way of Jesus? How do you fit into the equation?
- Where can you change your ways to be a more sacrificial servant to others?