A critical look at the Gospel pericope suggests a sense of conspiracy from the two brothers, James and John as can be seen in their treacherous move to get positions of honour in Jesus’ kingdom. Perhaps they were influenced by their shallow understanding of Jesus’ ministry and what was written by the prophets about the Messiah, the liberator of Israel. Thus they mistake the reign of Christ to a political kingdom where power and prestige dominate and self-interest and self-protection trump justice and service. It is instructive to note that in Mark’s account, it was not the mother of James and John that took them to Jesus and made the request on their behalf as Saint Matthew recorded it (Mt. 20: 20). The two sons of Zebedee actually went to Jesus themselves after Jesus had spoken about his imminent death in Jerusalem and his subsequent resurrection (Mk. 10:32-34).
They thought that the smartest thing was to make their intention known to Jesus but they ended up exposing their selfishness. As we have it in the very first paragraph of the Gospel: “…James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask… “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mk. 10:35, 38; NIV). They wanted to outsmart the other ten disciples because they were yet to understand the type of Messiah Jesus Christ is. They did not realise that in Jesus’ kingdom, position and authority become instruments of service and not of suppression and domination.
In order to make it clearer to them, Jesus called his disciples to himself and said: “You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all,” (Mk. 10: 42-44 JB). By this Jesus read to them their mission statement and by extension ours too. In other words Jesus was saying: “All My servants shall be equal; and the only greatness known to it shall be the greatness of humility and devotedness to the service of others. He that goes down the deepest in these services of self-denying humility shall rise the highest and hold the chiefest place in that kingdom…” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible; 1871). Our calling is to serve, not to lord it over others.
Am I a humble servant-leader in my house and place of work?
Fr Leonard Uzuegbu
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