Mark 10: 35-45
Today’s scripture focuses on a persistent misunderstanding of the disciples. They don’t realize Jesus will suffer nor do they understand they must, too. James and John requested positions of honor. In doing so, they were unaware of their own callings to servanthood. This scripture highlights important challenges. First, as followers of Jesus of Nazareth, we face the same question as James and John: Are we willing to drink the same cup as Jesus? Second, our journey as Christians is not one of power, position, or recognition. Third, servant leadership is paramount.
As Christians, we must answer a major question asked in verse 38, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” As followers of Jesus, we need to accept suffering and carrying the burdens of others. Neighborly love and devotion to God are central tenets of our conviction. We may not pay the ultimate sacrifice like Jesus or the face the same suffering as the sons of Zebedee. However, as devout followers we must be willing to suffer and to sacrifice on behalf of others.
In the scripture, the disciples’ viewpoint is one of self-concern. Status is critical to this perspective—exercising authority over others. We, too, fall prey to the misdirected desire to worry more about ourselves than serving others. As Christians, we need to recognize the journey is not one of prestige but one of unadulterated servanthood. It is not a question of being taken advantage of or of honor but of giving our “advantage” to others. Servanthood is critically important not only within the church community but in our cultures and societies as a whole.
If we find ourselves dulled by excess comfort and distracted by our problems and self-concern, we may tend to separate ourselves from those less fortunate—people who are poor (or poorer) and people who are marginalized. They may remain far from us, if not invisible, whether far or near. We can be enslaved—insensitive to the maladies our world. Our separation from people who are destitute and poor may be great, or we may be very close.
In these verses, we are called into service as servants and slaves. Jesus’ description of Christian leadership, “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” (vv. 43–44) is as important today as it was when Jesus walked with his disciples to Jerusalem to suffer on our behalf.
Today, in our journey, we join with the disciples of old as we walk and talk with Jesus. We are no different from our ancient colleagues— like the sons of Zebedee or the other “10.” Many times we fail to understand what it means to follow Jesus. We don’t grasp the meaning of our discipleship. We become competitive with one another. We become overly self-concerned, seeking prestige and honor. We want to exercise our leadership the way the world teaches us to lead rather than by service. Our list of inadequacies and misunderstandings could be endless.
However, these verses provide wise counsel when placed with the other stories and parables of Jesus. In our weakness, shortcomings, and inadequacies, Jesus calls us to servanthood and continues to help his disciples (us) overcome our failures, and reconciles us to our Creator. As we walk with Jesus, we slowly but assuredly comprehend the central theme of his ministry. Our call of discipleship is servanthood—service to our fellow beings. The desire and drive for prestige, power, and recognition is as misplaced to us as it was to James and John.