James and John are not yet ready. They have not learned the hard lesson of forgoing desires and delusions of grandeur for the Christlike role of servanthood.
When the other disciples hear of their outrageous request for power and glory, they are angry. We might guess why. Do they already understand the lesson that the brothers did not yet grasp? [Probably not.] Are they holding the brothers accountable for reckless desires? [Perhaps.] Or are they annoyed that these two have asked outright for powers and honors they would have preferred to have themselves? [Could be.]
Again, with gentle patience, Jesus defuses the situation with more guidance and redirection. Though they have had three years of first-hand exposure to Jesus’ power, the disciples are still stuck in old notions of power as strength over, as strength against, as governance of, as “I’m up; you’re down.”
No, Jesus says; that’s not it. A kingdom of love does not have tyrants. Servanthood, not force, is the driving power in this new era. Greatness is measured in what you give away, not in what you grab for yourself. What have you seen me take, and what have you seen me give? I am about to give up my last breath—for love of you, not to seize the throne.
Had you been among the Twelve, what might have you thought? Would you declare yourself ready for whatever demands faith placed upon you? Would you happily accept a “secondary” role as servant rather than ruler? Would you resent or welcome the idea of relinquishing your personal desires to God rather than pursuing them as you wish?
Understanding the paradox of receiving by giving away is at the root of understanding God’s power and how to participate in the faithful use of that power.
Gracious God, teach me the lessons of humble servanthood, and prepare me for a life of devotion to Christ’s work. Amen.
At this point in Job’s story, God has heard questions from Job and long-winded moralizing by three of Job’s friends, who have pronounced that his misfortunes are divine judgment. Now God has heard enough and declares that God’s perspective is superior to theirs. God has been there from the beginning, as the psalmist reiterates, so no one should claim to know God’s mind or speak on God’s behalf. Even Jesus, the divine Son of God, yields to his heavenly Father. Hebrews tells us that Jesus made appeals to God as the ultimate high priest and thereby became the source of salvation for those who obey him. In the Gospel reading, Jesus specifies that his approaching act of submission and service will allow him to become a ransom for us.
Read Job 38:1-7, 34-41. How do you continue to hold on to belief in God’s goodness when you are in a period of anguish?
Read Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c. How do you share in the creativity of God?
Read Hebrews 5:1-10. In what ways does the understanding of Jesus’ willing vulnerability while serving as high priest affect the way you interact with others?
Read Mark 10:35-45. Where do you see genuine examples of servant leadership in your community?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.