I was reading Jesus response to the two brothers, James and John, when they asked Him if they could sit ‘one on your right and the other at your left in your glory’. They clearly wanted to be the most favoured and the most important in His Kingdom. Jesus doesn’t tell them off but simply asks a question. He says in effect ‘it’s not my call, but also you don’t know what you are asking. Could you handle the suffering that is involved in taking that position?’ To which they boldly reply, “We can”. Mark 10:35-39.
Not surprisingly the other disciples were rather cheesed off about their pushiness at asking Jesus for this honour, so He then patiently teaches them all, about what leadership looks like in the Kingdom of God. I say patiently because in effect it’s the second time He has tried to convey to them the difference in leadership between the world and His Kingdom.
The disciples had already had one argument about who was the greatest after they had failed to drive a spirit out of a young boy, Mark 9:17-29. They were returning with Jesus to Capurnaum. They must have known it was not the kind of argument ‘followers of Jesus’ should be having, because they kept quiet and didn’t own up to the argument when He asked them about it. So Jesus taught them the way it was going to be in His Kingdom anyway. Mark 9:33-36.
Jesus summed up His position in one sentence. (How often He did that!). “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”. It’s that simple; no degree, no leadership training, no dynamic personality, just servanthood. Perhaps this is also why He said “Many who are first shall be last, and many who are last will be first.” Matthew 19:30.
Amazingly Jesus had to go over this again, right at the last supper. We are told, (incredible as it seems), that right after Jesus had told the disciples that one of them was going to betray Him, ‘a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered the greatest’. This time Jesus spells it out more clearly, saying “The kings of the gentiles lord it over them; ………But you are not to be like that. Instead the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.… I am among you as one who serves” Luke 22:24-27.
In John’s account of the last supper we see that Jesus didn’t just use words but He took the part of a servant and ‘wrapped a towel around His waist. After that He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.’ Afterwards He said to them “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:4,5,12-16.
Serving one another is a different kind of leadership. It’s a kind of leadership that you can have whatever your actual position is in the world or the church, and it is open to all. Today let us thank God for every opportunity that He gives us to serve other people in His Name. To do what He did for His disciples. If we can recognize those opportunities when they come, and thank Him for them, we will find ourselves taking them up with joy in our hearts, because we know that every time we serve one another heaven sees and rejoices. Every time we grasp an opportunity to serve one another, we demonstrate to the principalities and powers that we are part of a different Kingdom.
And there is one more reason to be thankful. Jesus finished His conversation with the disciples by saying to them, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:17. So we can thank God that every time He gives us an opportunity to serve someone, He is also giving us an opportunity to put ourselves in line for even more blessing!! How good is that!!