The Request of James and John
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:35-36 English Standard Version (ESV)
Our pastor included this text in his message this past weekend. I thought, “I don’t know as if I’ve ever seen that kind of base, carnal honesty in all of scripture.” I think if any of us were completely forthright in our most vulnerable moments, we would ask the same. It may go something like this:
Jesus, I know you’re God and have my future in the palm of your hand but I’m exhausted. I’m tired of striving to become more like you. I’m tired of submitting. I’m tired of the entire refining process. I’m tired of running counter to culture. Can you please, just this once, give me exactly what I want? Regardless of any of the consequences or fine print – I need this.
Our pastor mentioned James and John would certainly match the profile of an A personality. They weren’t the kind to “let go and let God”. They were familiar with the “way the world works”. They were immersed in their cultural system and saw an opportunity to gain some ground and “make hay while the sun’s shining”. Any of these sound familiar?
Faith (my wife) and I were talking recently about the catch phrases, pop psychologies and cultural cliches we throw around that sound so pleasing to the ear in the moment. It’s so easy to fall victim to a charismatic personality and/or a well-timed, pseudo-wise word; especially in a moment of weakness. Isn’t it? It’s not until you hold it up to the lens of scripture that you find out if it has any sort of eternal value or if it’s appealing to the flesh at just the right point in time.
So it goes that James and John were in for a mind-blowing lesson. They thought they were going to be able to apply their systems (be there early for the Black Friday sale and shove my way to the 60″ TV’s) as a template over the Kingdom of God and manipulate it to their benefit. Instead, he turns their concept on it’s head and Jesus tells them:
43 … But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[d] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[e] of all. Mark 10:43-44 English Standard Version (ESV)
We’ve been reviewing the The Cost of Discipleship in our church and I have personally been reading the book with the same title by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A recurrent theme is taking up our cross – a daily dying to self. There’s nothing harder than fighting the impulse of self. It always demands an immediate solution. I want what I want and I want it NOW. The valuable, Kingdom things always seem to take more time, effort and sometimes…pain. Although, I’ve never heard anyone having received the reward from long-suffering want to give it back in the end. It’s a reminder for me to set aside the temporal things for the permanent. It’s always worth it.