And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45)
Pride Has No Place In The Kingdom
During the final weeks of the ministry of Jesus, a dispute arose among His disciples. After a few years of teaching, exhorting, showing the power of God through miracles, signs, and wonders, Jesus was beginning His journey to Jerusalem where He would suffer and die. His apostles had been with Jesus much of the time as He groomed them for the work they were yet aware was coming. With a growing sense of confidence, James and John went to the Lord and requested to be placed at His right hand and His left when the supposed earthly kingdom would be established. The disciples had a mistaken idea about the true nature of God’s kingdom. They thought Jesus had come to restore the kingdom of God as it was in the olden days. The kingdom of God was not of the world but a spiritual kingdom. James and John had failed to understand this, and thinking Jesus would soon organize His kingdom, the sons of Zebedee (along with their mother) sought to place themselves in a position of prominence.
It was a reckless request by James and John to become so prideful of their ministry with the Lord. Throughout the teaching of Jesus, the Son of God showed humility and grace in His action, His teaching, and His instruction to the twelve. Faced now with two of His disciples wanting places of power, the Lord gathers the twelve and teaches them a final lesson about the true nature of greatness. The ten apostles were very angry at James and John. Jesus must show them the failure of the request and at the same time admonish His disciples to see the true nature of His kingdom.
Greatest does not come from a proud heart seeking power. True greatness in the kingdom of God comes from a servant’s heart. The world is filled with power-hungry souls who thrive upon the position of authority, demanding respect through pride. Some men live all their lives to be the biggest or most influential men of their time, and to what end? They enjoy the limelight for a time and then fade away and are forgotten. Sadly, some seek power within the church of God demanding respect from prideful hearts seeking to be men of greatness. They become as John would later write about Diotrephes, who loved to have the preeminence among the brethren.
Jesus describes greatness in the act of serving. It must have been a difficult time for Jesus to deal with James and John seeking glory when He Himself was about to show the greatest act of greatness by suffering as a servant on the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, did James and John feel ashamed for asking so much from the Lord? There are only children in the kingdom of God. Sometimes those children try to become adults to lord over others but to be great in the kingdom is to serve others with a child-like heart. Jesus did not come to lord over others. He came to give His life a ransom for many. Dying like a criminal, Jesus took on the sins of all men and left a pattern of servitude that is required for all those who call on His name. When a man desires to be great in the kingdom of God, he has failed – miserably. Seeking the path of a slave and serving with a heart of humility will exalt one in the eyes of the Father.