This post is one in a series of reflections for Lent. I invite you to go back and read the previous reflections.
Once again Jesus has told the disciples that he is going to be betrayed and killed. Right after he has finished this teaching, the James and John ask him for a favor. They ask if they can be seated to right of Jesus in his kingdom. I can almost hear Jesus sigh. He tells them that they have no idea what they are asking. They have completely missed what he has been teaching them. He is going to die. The physical earthly kingdom that they are picturing is not going to happen at this time. He then ask them if they are prepared to drink from his cup of suffering. They claim they are. Jesus tells them that they will intend drink from his cup. We know this to be the case. James was martyred and John died in exile on the island of Patmos. The life of these two disciples following the resurrection was marked with suffering. In the fact, the life of the entire church was marked by the same suffering. Jesus tells them that he does not have the authority to place them to his right and left. Those seats are prepared for who the father has prepared them for. James and John will have their place in the kingdom, but the Father will be the one to place them.
Jesus goes on to teach the disciples that they got it all wrong. In their minds, leadership is the ability to rule over others. The disciples would have been used to this type of leadership under the Romans. Jesus kingdom is going to have a new standard for greatness. It will no longer be the strongest or richest, but the humblest. Do you want to be great? Be a slave to everyone. Jesus provides himself as the ultimate example of this type of leadership. He did not come to rule over others. He did not come to be served by others. He came to serve. He came to the earth to lay down his life as a ransom on behalf of others. If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, then you must be like Jesus. Instead of seeking ways to promote ourselves, we must continually be looking for ways to humble ourselves. We may not face martyrdom like the early church, but we must be willing to lay down our own wants and desires for the sake of Christ. Only when we have emptied ourselves, can we be filled by God. God wants humble hearts that desire to serve him and to serve the world around them.