During his ministry on earth, Jesus often spoke directly to those with him with words of instruction intended specifically for those individuals. Less frequently he spoke to all who would listen to him, using words of universal importance. Over these few weeks we reflect on some of the instructions from the Gospel of Mark that Jesus intended we, and all who follow him, should receive and obey.
Gospel of Mark 10: 35-45 (NIV)
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and 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. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 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.”
The statement with universal application here re-emphasises what Jesus was trying to instil into his disciples in Capernaum as recorded in Mark 9 and as referred to in the reflection that precedes this one. In Mark 9 Jesus disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest. Here it seems that two of them were trying to gain an advantage over the others.
Jesus’ instruction to them was that they were not to compete as the world does. Positions of authority are not for personal advantage. He then said, “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.”
Again he presented them with the example of a servant: “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.”
We are not to think that the way to fulfil our ambition to become great is to start out as a servant. Rather we are to see greatness in serving and, rather than burn with ambition, we are to carry that servant attitude in our hearts.