By Evan Johnson
And when the ten heard [Jesus rebuke James and John], they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rules of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
"It shall not be so among you." Jesus and his disciples had seen how the kings and governors and emperors of the world had empowered themselves with greatness. They built grandiose palaces for themselves. They had vast parades to showcase their power. Their wealth and popularity were celebrated by decree. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, wanted to sit at the right hand of Jesus when he established his kingdom. They weren’t alone in this thought process. It was commonly believed that the prophesied Messiah would establish an earthly kingdom like David did. The Jews were promised a land of their own, and Roman occupation stood in direct violation of this promise. They were longing for that promise to be fulfilled. Could this carpenter be that king that they had longed for?
In fact, Jesus did come to establish a kingdom on Earth, but it is one that transcends borders and nations across the globe. Abraham Kuyper is quoted as saying, “there is not one inch under all of creation of which Jesus Christ does not cry, ‘mine!’”
And it is his. Just not in the way that James and John had assumed, and the disciples were furious. What right had these two fishermen to assume that they could be governors in this new world order? Yet Jesus quickly puts this idea to rest. We are not rulers. We are servants. More importantly, we are servants to one another.
Last summer, I suffered the ever-present problem of my lease running up before I could find a place to live. I needed a place to stay. I had mentioned it to a friend of mine, Ted. He said he would check with his wife, but that he couldn’t imagine it being a problem. Sure enough, Claire gave us the green light. I stayed with them for two weeks.
During those two weeks, I had a seizure while driving down Meridian and hit the railing of a bridge. When I got to the hospital, I called my pastor in a haze. He managed to understand that I was in the hospital and stayed with me until they released me. He dropped me off at Ted and Claire’s (I think—I still barely remember that night).
I had no car. Ted and Claire drove me anywhere I needed to go. I despise needing people. It messes with my pride. I consider myself less of a human. I hate needing people, but part of serving others is being okay with others serving you—setting aside your pride and letting others help you when you need it.
Everyone who showed me generosity and grace during that time in my life helped me through a very up-and-down time. I felt useless. I felt alone. I felt frustrated. Without Ted and Claire and the other people around me who are too many to name, I’m confident I would have thrown trust out of the window.
But the funny thing about being shown human kindness and generosity is it makes you want to show it to others.