International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending February 20, 2011
Purpose: To comprehend that greatness in God's sight is measured by humble service to others
Scripture Text: Mark 10:35-45 (NRSV)
(35)James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”(36)And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” (37)And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (38)But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (39)They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; (40)but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
(41)When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. (42)So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. (43)But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, (44)and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. (45)For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
As we continue Mark's rapidly paced gospel, Jesus and His entourage are getting ever closer to Jerusalem. And in Mark's shortened version, James and John approach Him with an unusual request. In Matthews’s version it is the mother of James and John that makes this request. Just a reminder that James and John's mother was Salome, many believe she was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. So in Mathew’s version Jesus' aunt is making the request on behalf of her sons.
In our text, it reads like a couple of sophomoric kids trying to get a favor without telling what they want. We, that are parents, have all experience this request for a guaranteed response before we hear the question, “promise me you will just say yes.” Jesus' responded with a direct question. “What do you want?” You have to wonder what would have happened if the request was granted; which one would get the right hand position and which one the left? Maybe mom would make that decision for them.
I think the boy's were still thinking in terms of a Messianic Kingdom on earth, but Jesus reminded them, that what was about to happen to him, they too would have to be willing face. The answer they gave, “We are able,” is the correct answer and should serve as an example for us to follow, when we are called to fulfill the task assigned.
History tells us that indeed James faced death early in the history of the church, as recorded in Acts 12:2 being the very first of the apostle's to suffer martyrdom. John lived mush longer, but faced exile and hardships in his long and storied life. Tradition tells us he was boiled in oil by Roman authorities and given the title of martyr, although he lived through that horrific experience and the boiling oil had no effect on him.
The special place of power that the brothers sought is for God alone to assign, not even the Son could make that call. Just as His return is also God the father's call. It is not hard for us to imagine the outrage and the name calling that the other apostles bestowed on these two power seeking brothers. Most of us can relate to a fellow worker that cozies up to the boss for special favors, and how we feel about that.
Jesus calls all of them together and explains that His Kingdom's rules are considerably different than the rules and ways of the world. In His Kingdom it is not about how much power you have, but how well you serve those that you called to minister. Jesus would later make this point when He washed the feet of each of His disciples on the Thursday night before the cross.
This passage often leads me to think that most of our church hierarchy has it wrong, those that are called to minister, spend most of their time working for the hierarchy and very little time serving those they were called to serve. If Christ teaching were followed, then our Bishops and Superintendents would be coming and serving our pastors rather than setting in the ivory palace making decrees. Originally, superintendents and bishops were out preaching in the parishes, and assisting pastors in their ministry. “We have failed to be an obedient church and we have not heard the cry of the needy.”
With God's help, we can do a better job of serving those that we are called to lead, we can go to the back of the line, and become servant leaders. We, like Christ, are called to serve, not to be served.