Back on the road, they set out for Jerusalem. Jesus had a head start on them, and they were following, puzzled and not just a little afraid. He took the Twelve and began again to go over what to expect next. "Listen to me carefully. We're on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Romans, who will mock and spit on him, give him the third degree, and kill him. After three days he will rise alive."
James and John, Zebedee's sons, came up to him. "Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us."
"What is it? I'll see what I can do."
"Arrange it," they said, "so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left."
Jesus said, "You have no idea what you're asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I'm about to be plunged into?"
"Sure," they said. "Why not?"
Jesus said, "Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that's not my business. There are other arrangements for that."
When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down. "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around," he said, "and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage."
Oh jealousy! It’s so much fun. It is one of those things that seems to be right around the corner in so many relationships, friendships, and communities. It’s pretty much the worst. Yet, we don’t really even notice it. We just know that there is something off and all of a sudden we don’t like someone or they don’t like us anymore.
The twelve apostles were no stranger to jealousy. They were just normal people who walked with Jesus. They were by no means perfect. They didn’t have their stuff “together” and they weren’t immune from struggles of life.
I love this interaction with The Twelve because it shows us just how normal they are. James and John wanted to ascend as Jesus’ heirs. They were basically asking to take over his place as the authorities for all the others to follow. The Jewish readers of this story might have a call back to Joseph and his brothers. Joseph bragged about being the one that the others would bow to. So they threw him in a well. The story gets pretty deep after that.
Jesus puts a stop to it pretty quick. He reminds the Apostles that the greatest among them is to be a servant and a slave to all. If they are going to follow his lead and his modeling, then they would need to realize that it would cost them everything. Leaders in the kingdom of God are those who are willing to lay down their egos, their pride, and their personal comfort for the sake of the others.
Have you ever really considered the reality that Jesus willingly traded his life to ransom his people? Have you really considered the fact that to defeat the powers and principalities he needed to lay down his life for his friends? By doing so, he was able to rise again. It was in the rising that death and sin were defeated.
This is what leaders in the kingdom of God must be willing to do. They must be willing to lay themselves down for the sake of others.
As I look around I wonder how many of my colleagues are embodying this reality? So many of us are scrambling for notoriety and fame. We want to be the “guy” on the stage of the next big conference. We want the best selling book or the million download podcast. In essence so many of us want to ascend to the right or left hand of Jesus. We make the Zebedee move in subtle and not so subtle ways.
This morning I opened up writing dashboard and saw that yesterday’s devotional had the most reads and views of any of them. I got a thrill from that. My first thought was, “How can I now get more?” Ugh. It’s ugly. The sin sick heart within me is real and wants the fame and power and glory and recognition.
It turns out in so many ways I’m a Zebedee, how about you?