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Sharing in Your Glory: Success or Service?

“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Like James and John, we too are quick to assume that following Christ leads to success, power, and glory. Like James and John we ask for what we know and think we want—and we know that this world rewards success, power, and glory with even more of the same, and we want it! Yet Jesus turns our lust for success, power, and glory on its head: “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” This servant leadership that finds power in self-giving is to be a hallmark of Christian community. For this servant-leadership is both modeled on and empowered by the living Jesus himself. His greatness is exactly in his humility, his strength is in his weakness, and his whole life is given a ransom for our sake. Indeed, Isaiah reminds us that “The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous.” Those who end up sitting at his right and left hand in his glory will not be the privileged and powerful, or even the disciples, who shrink back from sharing in his cup of suffering. Those at his right and left hand will be condemned criminals, crucified alongside him as he offers himself as a ransom for many. Likewise, those who will be great among us will be servants, finding Christ’s strength in their weakness and giving of themselves fully, following their Lord through failure, weakness, and shame into true and eternal glory.

Gospel: Mark 10:35-45

On the way to Jerusalem the disciples ask Jesus to grant them seats of honor. Jesus responds by announcing that he and his followers will “rule” through self-giving service.

35James 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.” 36And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38But 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?” 39They 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; 40but 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.”
41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So 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. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”