Mark 10: 35-45
Oswald Sanders says, “Because we children of Adam want to become great, Jesus became small. Because we will not stop, He humbled himself. Because we want to rule, He came to serve.”
The greatest contrast I have noticed in my Christian journey is the contrast between the humility of my Lord and my sinful pride. In the last week’s Bible reading from Mark 10:35-45, Jesus for the third time predicts his death. Without any respect or concern towards the Lord, the disciples argue over who will be the greatest after Jesus’s death. James and John decide to settle this issue with a blatant request for seats, one at His right hand and one at his left hand. To sit on his right hand and his left in the Kingdom would not only be an honor, but it would give authority. They wanted the status, honor, recognition to be the best in the Kingdom, right after Jesus. This request is interesting because they are not asking this to be closer to the Lord and have a deeper relationship. How easy it is to blend worship with self-interest, or worse, disguising self-interest as worship. They sought praise marked by self-interest (v. 35-37).
One of the greatest losses to usefulness for God’s Kingdom is pride, thinking highly of ourselves than we ought. For this is the man whom I will look, says the Lord, he who is humble and contrite in spirit and tremble at my word. Christian fellowship ought to be one of the chief blessings in this life, and because of our pride, we cause disunity. It caused disunity then among the disciples (v. 41). It still causes disunity today among the believers. John Stott says, “the church is full of Jameses and Johns, go-getters and status-seekers, hungry for honor and prestige, measuring life by achievements, and everlastingly dreaming of success.” We want to do well for sure (and be recognized for it). The issue here is not, am I pursuing greatness? The issue here is, am I pursuing things that Jesus says are great? In the next verses, what’s fascinating is that Lord never rebuked his disciples for their ambition to be great. He patiently clarifies and redefines their ambition.
His patience towards them/us should humble us and give us hope. Jesus says you know how the world’s rulers are; for them, greatness is about exercising authority and exaltation and status. When people get a little power, how quickly it may go to their heads. But, He says, it shall not be so among you. Instead, you must be a servant of all and a slave of all. According to Roman standards, the word servant (diakonos), the Greek word for waiting tables, prevalent and humble task, nothing you would associate greatness with, and the slave (doulos) had been forced into service. These were two of the lowest positions on society’s scale. Jesus was speaking of being a faithful servant, not a fake. In the eyes of God, Genuine greatness means serving others. The ideal servant lived to care for, protect, and make better the lives of those over them. He spoke of an entirely different kind of greatness pleasing to God because it is humble and self-giving rather than proud and self-serving.
True humility doesn’t kill our dreams; it provides a safe zone based on the Word of God to navigate in the direction to bring God Glory. As we grow in the Lord, we will be less shaped by our culture, and we will not value the same things that our culture values.