World English Bible translation
10:35James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came near to him, saying, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we will ask."
10:36He said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?"
10:37They said to him, "Grant to us that we may sit, one at your right hand, and one at your left hand, in your glory."
10:38But Jesus said to them, "You don't know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"
10:39They said to him, "We are able."
Jesus said to them,"You shall indeed drink the cup that I drink, and you shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; 10:40 but to sit at my right hand and at my left hand is not mine to give, but for whom it has been prepared."
10:41When the ten heard it, they began to be moved with indignation towards James and John.
10:42Jesus summoned them, and said to them, "You know that they who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 10:43 But it shall not be so among you, but whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant. 10:44 Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be servant of all. 10:45 For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
A rich young man had approached Jesus and asked him what he could do to inherit eternal life. The young man went away disappointed because Jesus told him to sell everything that he owned and give it to the poor. Jesus used this incident to tell the disciples how difficult it would be for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. This teaching seemed to have caused the disciples distress. They each were anticipating having a place of honor and privilege in the Kingdom. That conversation seems to have precipitated what occurs in today's lesson.
The brothers James and John come to Jesus and make a request of Him. They ask Jesus for positions of glory in the Kingdom that He is to establish. Jesus asks them whether they are prepared to accept the consequences of such a position. In order to sit on His right hand and His left a person must be willing to suffer and sacrifice. After they tell Jesus that they are prepared to sacrifice for these positions, Jesus tells them that even though they will suffer for His sake that the positions that they seek are already pre-ordained for other persons.
When the other apostles heard of what James and John requested they were indignant. So Jesus brought them all together and attempted to once more explain to them how the Kingdom would operate. He told them that His Kingdom would not be established like the kingdoms of this world. The leaders of this world are those who wield the most power and can force people to do their will. But, the leaders in the Kingdom of God will be those that serve the weak. The Kingdom of God will be led by men and women who are the most willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. In order to lead, one must serve.
Is it appropriate to be ambitious in the church? Is it right to desire positions of authority in the church structure? Jesus seems to be saying in this passage that it depends on your motivation. God wants people that are eager and ambitious. Jesus chose these twelve headstrong men to be His apostles. But, He wants that ambition tempered with a love for other people that demands self-sacrifice. Instead of ambition leading us to conquer and triumph over other people in the church, ambition should lead us to excel in the things of the Spirit.
We can achieve this balance when we realize that there is no need to promote ourselves any longer in the church. God knows all about us. We cannot deceive Him. He knows those that are worthy of blessing and those who only do just enough to get by. If we have faith in God, we will leave all efforts at self-promotion behind. God will choose the best man or woman for the job. And often that will be the man or woman that seems least qualified to us. In all things God will act so that people will see that it is God who deserves the glory. God will do nothing to aggrandize you. In all things Christ must advance and I must recede. If God chooses to act in us it will be because men will see that only through His efforts did we achieve anything.
Does your desire to lead drive you to serve? Would a position of authority in your church make you proud or humble?
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