Mark 10:35-45, Hebrews 4:14-16, Isaiah 53:10-11
When we look at the way things are moving today, one begins to question if we are truly conscious of who we are. We live in the world as if we will live here forever.
We forget that the main aim of being in the world is to serve God. The way to serve as Jesus does go with humility, love, care and goodness in bringing joy to the life of others.
Many people today who find themselves in higher positions treat their subjects as if they are nothing. Sometimes, when we find ourselves in certain positions in life, our life will change totally. We begin to look down on others or use what we have to intimidate them.
Sometimes, we see ourselves as the Lord, forgetting that even the Lord demands that we use what we have to serve others.
Service is a powerful spiritual principle. The principle of service even cuts across the spiritual. It plays a very great role even in business, and many professions. Anyone who sees His business, profession and vocation as a call to serve the people must see significant improvements in whatever He/she does.
To serve as Jesus does should be our guiding principle. This involves laying our lives for others, helping people, bringing out time for the good of others, saving lives and helping to lift the burden off the shoulders of other people.
Our life is to serve God with all our hearts. The word “service” is often underrated and overlooked, but true service to God and our fellow human beings makes one great. Jesus came to the world and offered His life as a ransom for many.
He then asks us to do the same to others if we are truly His disciples. Therefore, to serve as Jesus does, is our vocation, guiding principle and singular objective as His true followers.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells His apostles, “the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
In John 13, after washing the feet of His apostles Jesus tells them “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you”. (John 13:12-16). Therefore, we have to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the reason we are His disciples.
Then in verse 17, Jesus says “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them”. Therefore, blessings, graces, greatness etc lie behind service.
Jesus Lays down His Life For Us.
The first reading which comes from the book of Isaiah 53 is one of the four “Servant Songs’ ‘. In this chapter, Isaiah describes the climactic period of world history when the Messiah will come.
The chapter describes the suffering servant who is treated cruelly, but he bears it silently. He is to be killed and judged. His fellow citizens are very heartless.
They show no concern that he suffers death unjustly. This suffering servant bears all this for the sake of sinners. Then today’s first reading now says that despite the inhumanity of people, the servant’s death is according to the will of God.
Isaiah describes his suffering and death as a sacrifice for the removal of sin. In this beautiful song, Isaiah said that the servant is satisfied when he sees the fruits of his suffering, namely, a multitude of spiritual children who are forgiven their sins and accounted righteous before God because of his death.
Through His suffering and death, many people would be justified and freed from their guilt.
When one reads this we would always know that Isiah is pointing at the Messiah who is going to suffer to free the people from sin.
Therefore, despite that Jesus is divine, He comes down and does not allow Himself to be served.
He humbles himself and takes the form of a servant.
The first reading is all about the complete freedom, self-suffering and sacrificial death of Our Lord Jesus Christ, through which man was saved.
Therefore, Jesus lays down his life for us that we might be saved. So, we have to follow his example.
Therefore, until we are willing to see our functions, positions and vocations as a call to save, help and touch lives, we will not make any true headway.
Jesus Understands Our Weaknesses.
Jesus takes human nature and then understands us perfectly. The author of the letter of the Hebrews said that now we can confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace in the time of need.
Therefore, Jesus understands us. He is one with us and understands our plight. In the same way, we have to become the same to others.
We have to understand the plight of people under our watch. Like Jesus, every leader needs to come close to the people that he serves. People do not elect us for them to worship us. We are elected to serve the people.
If every leader can take their positions like this, things will change. But the problem we have today is that we use everything as a way to show that we have arrived or that we are now greater than others.
This is the reason many people are into competition. Instead of coming close and working together, they compete on who will be the best and greatest, and doing that, brings jealousy, hatred and envy. We can see how such a thing happens in the gospel of today among the disciples of Jesus.
The Request Of James and John.
The gospel today presents us with the request of James and John and how Jesus replies to them. In this encounter too, Jesus reiterates the importance of service and the need to think about our lives as a call to serve. Let us do justice to this in a simple analysis of the gospel.
The Desire for the gain
The gospel begins by telling us how James and John came to Jesus to request for positions; one at the right and another at the left. Before this happens, In verses 33 to 34 before today’s reading, Jesus was speaking about the suffering that is awaiting Him.
Now it was while Jesus was still talking about his death and suffering that James and John cut in. Their attention was not even on the passion or death or on what Jesus was telling them.
In the same way, there are also times we do not even care about the plight of others. What we want is that of ourselves and what we are to gain. In every family, country, organisation etc., that has this kind of mentality there is no growth.
This is when we focus our minds on ourselves rather than others. If the leaders can know what the people are passing through, they will focus on how to ameliorate the plight of the people.
Secondly, for James and John, Their attention was on what to gain. This later brought problems among the apostles. Sometimes, this is also the cause of our problems.
Many people always like to use every opportunity to their advantage. When we are given work or something to do, instead of focusing on how to better the lives of others, we always focus on what to gain.
“What to gain ” has destroyed our governments, our homes, families, friendships and many organisations.
“What to gain ” has led many to lose the trust they once had in their places of work and among their friends and colleagues. Sometimes the problem is not that things won’t be better, but the problem is that every person who finds himself at top positions is always motivated on what to gain.
Jesus does not give his life for what to gain, To Serve as Jesus does, we have to serve with our heart and see every work as a way to save lives.
What We Want and What God wants
1. When James and John came to Jesus, they asked Him “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” In other words, they want Jesus to do what they want.
The question was like asking Jesus to sign a blank check. In essence, in telling Jesus to obey them. This is what I may call a blank check promise. Herod Antipas made a blank check promise of up to “half of his kingdom” that resulted in his wife and daughter requesting John the Baptist’s head be delivered to her on a platter (cf. 6:22–23).
Do you agree with me that we also make the same mistakes? Sometimes in our prayers, we want God to obey us. We want to push God to do what we want and not what He wants.
First of all, this encounter teaches us that God has his way of doing things. We do not dictate for Him. Therefore, in our service, to God, we have to follow the will of God and not our own will. Let us treat every work as the Lord’s work. We will find joy doing them.
2. Our call is not to struggle for gains, power, money, and positions. But sometimes this is what we want. We want glory, power, etc. We want to rule, we want to be worshipped.
In many homes, we want to be the talking point of the moment. Sometimes we want people to fear us. Christians now seek self-glory. They want to be seen as the most powerful, the highest prayer warrior, the human-spirit man, the one who sees tomorrow and the night.
Many acclaimed men of God, see themselves as the next God. We have forgotten our call to save lives to seek glory, wealth, honour, prosperity, wealth, popularity etc. We now compete on who is the richest.
Our riches should come from the many souls we have saved. We are missing the road.
Even in our prayers, we do not want challenges. We want only the glory part of it and this is why every crusade that promises to lift the burden off from people has more crowd than a prayer ground that talks more of change and repentance.
Today, we seek self-glory, We want people to sing our praises. These are not the type of service Jesus wants us to render. To serve as Jesus does, we need humility, service and sacrifice. We have to save lives.
3. Instead of answering James and John with a direct answer, Jesus uses another question to answer them. Jesus is wise, So, He asks James and John, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
Therefore, Jesus teaches us that we need wisdom whenever we are dealing with people. We do not know what they have in mind. Every question people ask you may have a reason. It is good to think before you answer.
When Jesus asked what their request may be, they answered that they may have the positions of highest honour in His Kingdom.
The request reveals clearly that before the Crucifixion the disciples believed Jesus to be the Messiah; and since it was now clear that he was going up to Jerusalem, they expected his messianic glory to be revealed there.
Remember that the Jews see Jesus as a political messiah. They are not seeing Jesus as one who is going to die.
So, what happens is that James and John wanted to be sure of a prominent place in this about-to-be-realized messianic kingdom.
Jesus tells them that they do not know that they were asking. Their request simply reveals that they lack true knowledge of who Jesus is.
The two disciples did not know what they were asking. Jesus explains to them that The way to a privileged position in the messianic kingdom is not by grabbing for power. It is not by seeking glory. It is not by cheating. The way is not fighting but by relinquishing it through suffering and death.
Jesus explains this to them by using the analogies of the cup and baptism. The cup symbolizes trouble and suffering. Therefore, Jesus reveals to them that there is a cup they have to drink. In essence, Jesus reveals to us that life is not all about the glory part of it.
Life is also accompanied by suffering and challenges. But sometimes we focus only on the glory and forget the suffering part of it.
When the suffering part of it comes, we become angry and lose faith. Therefore, to serve as Jesus does, we have to be willing to lay our lives for others.
To serve as Jesus does, we have to see our positions as a way to serve God. We have to be willing to sacrifice our time, our resources and gifts for the good of others.
If you are a leader, sacrifice most of your time and come close to the people. This will make you understand them very well. Therefore to serve as Jesus does, the lives of the people should be on the first list of everything that we do.
1. In the life of James and John, we can truly see the desire to dominate others. They want to be the ones to occupy the positions of power so that they can be issuing others.
In the same way, the quest for positions and power has crippled and continues to cripple us today. It is the quest for power and position that has made many people kill and destroy to achieve their political ambitions.
It is the quest for riches and power that made many families today remain in total enmity for many years. The desire to be the one to rule others has created envy, jealousy and hatred among the people of God.
This is not what Jesus asks us today. If we truly understand what leadership is, we will always do our work with dedication and dignity.
2. When the other ten apostles heard this, they became indignant as James and John. They also became angry. The point here is that this attitude by the apostles also shows that they don’t understand who Jesus is yet.
They have an earthly conception of the messiahship of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, they would have just laughed at James and John over their ignorance. Yet the apostles joined to quarrel among themselves.
In the same way, this is how we also fight, compete and quarrel among ourselves over unnecessary issues. Today, many people are still fighting among themselves because one or two of them want to be the ones to be worshipped and issue orders. We have to imbibe the spirit of “to serve as Jesus does”.
3. Like James, John and other apostles, most of the things that we fight among ourselves today are things that are not even necessary.
We can see that the apostles do not even know what they are fighting for. They are fighting among themselves because of glory and kingdom. In essence, all of them also need the kingdom.
In the same way, most of the things we are killing ourselves for, are things not worth fighting for. We fight among ourselves because we hear kingdom, power or money. Hence, we forget that in these positions, we owe God certain responsibilities.
4. Jesus now tells them the true way of greatness among His disciples. He says to them that Gentile rulers “lord it over them,” i.e., over their subjects. But this is not the way it is among true followers of Jesus.
Therefore, whoever wishes to be great must be a servant. So, for Jesus, we do not achieve greatness by asserting rank, by power tussle, political struggle, etc but by humble service.
Therefore, to serve as Jesus does is the rule. He says to them that He did not come to be served, but to serve.
This describes our mission and the reason we have come to the world. Therefore, we achieve our greatness, not by competition nor power struggle. We achieve our greatness only by humble service.
5. Finally, we have to understand that the jews in the time of Jews were expecting a conquering Messiah who would re-establish the kingdom of David to them from the hands of the Romans.
They think that Jesus is the one. This is the reason there was a misunderstanding of the mission of Jesus among the disciples.
So while Jesus was going to Jerusalem, they thought that the hour had come when he is to take the kingdom.
This is why James and John wanted to make sure that some places are secure for them.
There was no doubt that the apostles were sincere to follow Jesus but the point is that they fail to understand that to follow Jesus is not all about glory.
It is not all about prosperity and power. To follow Jesus also involves persecutions, suffering, challenges.
Therefore, to conquer these, we have to be willing to lay down our lives for the vocation we have chosen.
It then means that as a follower of Jesus we need humility and sense of service. We do not expect everything to be so easy for us. There is always a time of problems and challenges.
6. Finally, to serve as Jesus does, we need to work with the spirit of humble service to the people.This is a call for every leader to follow the way of humility and willingness to touch lives.
This type of service is better than any form of leadership. All elected officials must remember that they are elected to serve the people and to promote the common good.
They are not elected to serve themselves and their stomach. And for all of us, let us keep in mind that our call is to save lives. We are called to serve and help one another.
May God bless you dearest and give us the grace to serve Him with all our whole hearts. May He be with you. Amen.