And James and John...came up to Him and said to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And they said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able."...And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.
Haven't we all at some time or another felt snubbed by a friend? Maybe someone you expected to be there for you wasn't. Maybe several friends did something together, but you weren't invited. Or, perhaps someone stole your spotlight by turning the attention to himself. In whatever the circumstance, how did you feel? Did it feel like a personal attack or abandonment? Did it make you want to retaliate? Did you lose sleep over it?
My husband has been preaching through the book of Mark, and one passage that recently hit me centers on a situation in which two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, snubbed their fellow disciples. In considering that Peter is the one recalling the event for Mark to record, I speculated how he must have felt after hearing what the other two asked of Jesus. But the passage takes us in a different direction, and all of the sudden our own hearts are under the microscope.
Did they really just ask Jesus if they could be the ones to sit on either side of Him in glory? I wonder if Peter was thinking, "What about me? I'm the one who deserves to be seated at His right hand!"
The reality is this snub probably didn’t have anything to do with Peter or the others. Most likely the others had not even crossed James’ and John’s minds. Their minds were simply filled with their own selfish ambition and desire to be made great.
It’s like kids at a birthday party who all want to sit next to the birthday girl, get the first piece of cake, or have her open their present first. They aren't thinking of anyone but themselves. If they get what they want, they feel more important than everyone else there. But what happens if someone else gets what they want?
Jealousy. Jealousy because they are now deprived of the attention and spotlight they craved. In this example, the heart is easy to see, but is ours any different?
What if someone else is elected to the position we sought? What if we don't get as many "likes" or "comments" on our social media posts as someone else? Or, let's ask it this way—when we have floor or box seats to the biggest sporting event or concert in town, don't we feel pretty important? Like we are better and more important than anyone else there!
What we need to see is how like James and John we are. We, too, have a blockage in our hearts caused by our own self-centeredness, self-glory, and self-love. A blockage so dire, heart surgery is our only hope!
The work and worth of Jesus is the surgery we need applied to our hearts. Only He was willing to do what we are not. Only He drank from the cup for people who care more about themselves than others around them. There was no other way to keep us from having to drink the cup of God's wrath for the ways we selfishly snub, dismiss, and harm others—this is why He had to die.
By God's grace, may the ways of the world telling us to make ourselves great, to be noticed, to be first, and to be the best get pushed out. Instead may we see a Savior who came to stoop and serve.
And Jesus called them to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
Living life in the reality of His Kingdom calls us to die to self, to serve others for their good, and to lose for others’ gain. Instead of trying to be great, we should strive to make others great—willingly exhausting ourselves so other are strengthened.
I don't know about you, but even on a good day, this is hard, which makes it all the more clear that my heart is blocked by selfishness. Admitting the need for surgery is not easy, but it is freeing. Freeing to see that Jesus loves me despite my selfish heart, and, in the ugliness of my exposed heart, I am met by how beautiful my Savior is to me.