“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It would have been one of those moments when I would have wondered, “Did she really ask that?’ The mother of James and John came to Jesus with a request. Actually she doesn’t ask for a favor. She makes a demand. “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” That took some “hutzpah.” Did she just think that her two boys were more deserving of it than the others? Did her sons put her up to it? We don’t know. The point is she understood how this world works. If you want to get ahead you have to make life all about you. You have beat out the other guy. You get your foot in the door first. That’s exactly what James and John did here. They want to be on top dogs in Messiah’s kingdom. They want it to be all about them.
This is no different than a bunch kids racing, pushing and shoving to see who get to be first. This is no different than my sisters and I fighting over who got to sit behind dad in the car. This is no different than spreading rumors about a friend to make yourself look better… than lying about someone so that you get the good job. This is no different than what I did to a friend in college. I told him someone wanted to talk to him. While he was gone, I asked out a girl before he did. That’s the way you get what you want. You push and shove, lie and gossip – You make life all about you. .
The problem is that kind of self-centered behavior carries a price - lost friendships, broken relationships, of strife, bitterness and division. It divided the disciples. When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with the two brothers. What’s more greatness sought this way doesn’t last. You are only on top until someone else comes along. It’s like the 7th grade girl who loved all the attention from the boys in confirmation. She thrived on it. The other girls resented her. Then the next year a different pretty girl moved in. She wasn’t the center of attention anymore. The glory was gone. Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul?”
So when this mother asked her question, Jesus set out to teach them a faith lesson we all need to learn – life isn’t all about me!. Jesus said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. In God’s kingdom greatness is not measured by how high you reach but by how low you stoop… not by how many serve you, but by how many you serve. The road to glory is traveled by putting others first and yourself last. That’s scares us. Oh we talk about being servants. We sing its praises when we are here. Yet when push comes to shove we are like those disciples who didn’t want to wash feet. Each was too proud to do such menial labor. There they sat there and no one moved. They knew that whoever got up would become the doormat, the fool, the loser. We are just like that. After all, once you start doing the tasks no one else wants to do people will take you for granted. They will give you all the dirty jobs. You become slave, not master.
Yet this is the road our Lord Jesus traveled. Jesus says it here, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Yes Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” When the disciples insisted his work was too important to be bothered with little children, Jesus took the time. “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the
When those around him complained he was spending too much time with
“tax collectors and sinners” Jesus reminded people, “I have come to seek and to save the lost.” When all the disciples were too proud to wash
feet, Jesus became the foot washer. Then the next day He stooped even further… He listened to the false charges against him
and said nothing. He endured the
whipping. He wore the crown of thorns. He went to the cross. He gave His life as a ransom for many, for
all, for you and me. kingdom of God
Instead of worrying about what would become of Him, Jesus put Himself in His Father’s hands. His Father did not fail. “God has highly exalted Him and placed on Him the name that is above every name…” Having been crucified for the sins of the world, the third day God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him with Him at His right hand in the heavenly places…”
Now He offers to you and me the towel and basin full of water. He invites us to travel on our knees a road that leads to a glory that does not end. Don’t get Him wrong. You don’t earn heaven by becoming a servant. No this is the road to greatness because this is the road Jesus traveled ahead of us. By giving His life Jesus purchased for us a greatness that you and I could never earn - no matter how far we rise, or how much we own, or how many people must wait on us. That’s why we can give up all the power struggles. That’s why life doesn’t have to be all about you or me. In Christ, ours is the attitude that says, “So what if others take me for granted?” We don’t lose anything by serving. In Christ, we are God’s children. We have His glory to bask in. We don’t need to push and shove. We can let others go before us. We can say please and thank you. Maybe, just maybe, by our service they might meet Him who came not to be served but to serve them. They might meet Jesus who give His life for them. In Him we are free to be what God intended us to be, to be servants walking the cross-lined path to the glory and greatness of heaven. So learn the lesson of the towel and bucket of water. Life is not all about you… It’s all about Him! Amen.