Occasionally while I am making some sort of presentation, I ask for one or more volunteers from the audience to help illustrate my point. If it’s a group of kids, hands will shoot up immediately and sometimes they actually do say “Pick me! Pick me!” They have no idea what they might be getting themselves into, but they are eager to be singled out. I guess some of us don’t ever grow up.
One day Jesus took the twelve disciples apart from all the other followers and told them they were headed to Jerusalem and that when they got there he would be arrested, tried, condemned, mocked, crucified until dead, and then raised from the dead. I guess they thought he was speaking metaphorically or they just chose to ignore what he was saying. Crazy talk.
But right after that, James and John come up to Jesus led by their mother. And she asked Jesus to appoint her sons as Thing One and Thing Two. Two grown men had their mother ask Jesus for this. Jesus’ response was, “What? You want what now? You do not even know what that would mean. Can you accept the same fate I’m going to have?”
James and John assured Jesus they were ready to be his Thing One and Thing Two. Clearly they had not been paying attention to what Jesus had just told them all. Maybe they were two busy talking to their mother about what she would say to Jesus to listen to what Jesus was actually saying. They seemed to think that pretty soon now Jesus was going to be recognized by the nation as someone large and in charge and they wanted to nail down the positions of his most important advisors before that happened. Time was short.
Time was short all right. Very soon Jesus’ ministry here on earth would be over. Oh yes, big things, monumental things would be coming but not at all what the Zebedees, or frankly any of the other disciples, thought of as big things. Everybody thought big things would promote them to be powerful.
But as Jesus explained in Matthew 20:26-28, “‘…It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’”
Jesus called his disciples to serve others, not to be served themselves. He calls us to serve others too. There are days that seems reasonable, and then there are days that seems like a pretty raw deal. We find ourselves thinking, “What about me? What about my needs?” Jesus did not mean that our own needs were to be ignored. He meant that whatever power, wisdom, or energy we have should be used to see that the basic needs of others are met instead of to serve ourselves or just our immediate family.