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.” And he said to them, “What is it 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.” 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?” 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; 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.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 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. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” [NRSV]
Ringling Bros Circus prides itself in having the greatest show on earth. It’s impressive and big, but is it the greatest?
Tony the Tiger believes his Frosted Flakes are Great! I think Honey bunches of Oats are even better.
Olympics 1996, member and friend volunteer repairing the hand rail going up to the Olympic Caldron the night of the opening games. The torch arriving and he is duct taping at the last second. Turns around in the shadow, literally inches off camera and facing Mohamed Ali. The Greatest.
Greatness is not something that everyone seeks. In fact we could make a case that most folks want to stay out of the spotlight. Looking at the text, ten disciples are angry with two for raising the bar. If we are being evaluated or compared to our piers we don’t want them to do better than us because that would make us look bad. We have an unwritten pack to reach for the middle or even the lowest common denominator.
Jesus’ word is not to go looking for Greatness.
It will follow your trust and service.
Don’t set out with the intention to beat the system.
The life of discipleship (Being a Christian) is not to won or lost, it
Is received as part of the relationship with God.
We may not all long to be the top of the heap or the head of the pack, but who does not enjoy a long shower of glory and praise?
We like to be recognized, praised and appreciated.
We like seeing our name in the paper, (as long as its not bad news)
We like it when folks think we are “good people.” No one wants a bad reputation. (Notorious: Famous for being bad)
What would we do to be liked? Children learn at a young age that test and temptation of doing right or wrong to be “in” or “cool.”
Even as adults who say they don’t want attention or credit, we have an uncomfortable knot in the stomach when someone takes credit for good that we, or someone else, has done.
Looking at the text, Jesus looks to the disciples and says: “You don’t know what you are asking.”
It is both encouraging and affirming to have others praise what we do, but if we set out to be praised as our goal, then our efforts are empty.
Glory is the by-product of good that is has been done. This is true of God’s glory or our own. But if we set out to do good things with the hope and goal of receiving glory.. we find the work empty.
Why? If we go looking for the fruit without caring for the tree we have a meal but not a livelihood. Greatness and Glory comes from service..
A Life of Service, comes first.
Jesus uses the disciples struggle as a teaching point:
First: Don’t worry about being first in line. Work diligently to serve and greatness will follow
And: Don’t do it for the praise, the deduction or the credit and you will find joy, credit and the prize that service builds.
The last shall be first: it is a common theme in the gospels..
Why do we need to hear it repeated?
- We don’t have to tell people we are not looking for greatness/ glory/ credit/ praise/ approval/ when we actually are doing just that.
- We don’t have to qualify and apologize for acts of service or humility. They don’t need explaining or defending.
- As followers, we are disciples, those who are learning and developing what it means to be committed, trusting, disciplined in the path of Jesus.
Greatness comes from the Greatest.. Seek God not greatness
Glory and Praise are motivators… don’t seek them as the goal
Service: is the ideas and words of our faith in actions.. that shape the type of relationship we have with each other and God.
God comes to save the least, last and lost.. The rest of us know to follow, trust and love shown in Jesus Christ.
So lets’ get to the back of the line.