The mother of James and John came and knelt before Jesus. He asked her what it was that she wanted.
She asked that in the age to come, her sons would sit on the right and left of him. That’s no small request, and Jesus noted that it was not his to grant.
In the world that all of the disciples knew, the most important people sat closest to the king or Chief Priest or the host of the banquet. These were coveted seats.
While we believe that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always act in harmony; some things belong exclusively to the Father.
Jesus shifted the conversation from the mother to her two sons and asks: Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?
We can, they responded. They surely did not know the full extent of their commitment that they made so readily.
Jesus noted that the commitment they just made would come to pass—surely he is talking after he commissioned them and sent them into the world—but some things are not his to give.
All authority in heaven and on earth is given to Jesus, but some things belong to the Father. The Father has not stepped out of the picture and one of those things will be who belongs where in the age to come.
The other 10 disciples heard about this request and were furious. Just who do those brothers think they are?
Jesus called all 12 together and reminded them that it was the way of the Gentiles to stick their noses in the air because of their position, rank, privilege, family name, or high bowling score. You have seen it. You know what I am talking about. It’s just the way of the world.
This is not the way of the Lord. If you really want to be first in the age to come, be last—be the slave or servant of everyone else now. Be the worker who serves so many without disdain for the work or for those who benefit.
It’s this whole last will be first thing again. If we really want to be first for the rest of eternity, we must be willing to think of ourselves last in this age. This is unselfishness. This is sacrifice. This takes courage. This requires trust that there will be reward in the age to come.
Jesus came to serve not to be served. We would be wise to understand this and embrace this attitude among ourselves.
This does not mean we must be homeless and penniless. It means that we see the needs of others before we address our own. We are here to serve others in this time in these bodies in this age. There will be reward in the age to come.
Hear the words of Jesus once again.
“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Some days, some weeks, some years it seems that we just want to keep our heads above water. Kids, school, work, taxes, bills, pets, masks or no masks, reading my chapter every day, and checking to see if I have enough toilet paper for the next panic sometimes feel like we are treading water.
But sometimes, we do feel our purpose in life—our God-given purpose. The storm is not overtaking us. We are putting our Master’s words into practice. Sometimes we long with all that we are to bring glory to God. There are those times when we know that God gave us gifts and talents and wants to see us use them to produce good fruit for the body of Christ.
It is in those times when we feel disposed to service—to serving others with everything that we are, especially those things that we are good at.
And we don’t serve to get an eternal reward, but we do get eternal reward because we serve God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is most often manifest in serving others.
Does this mean that when we run the race, we don’t want to finish first? No. Run it the best you can. Maybe you get a medal.
Does that mean that we don’t try to score 100% on our math test? No. Study like crazy. Do the best you can. Enjoy the grade earned from all your work.
Does this mean that we don’t put all of our education and experience on our resume when competing for a new job or a promotion? No. Compete. Don’t pad your resume but don’t short-change it. You might just get that promotion.
But in your attitude toward all of life, serve. Help others. Be generous.
If you get that promotion, help others be successful. If you really understand math, help those who don’t navigate what’s too hard for them. If you win the race, challenge your competitors to train with you so you all may improve.
Serving God with everything you have does not leave you destitute. In fact, you may only understand abundant life when you serve others. It’s this whole are we rich towards God thing again.
Life is not measured in the abundance of your possessions. Service is one of the eternal metrics that we should come to know well.
Remember my reminder not to use temporal metrics to measure eternal things. Don’t think that status in this world translates to status in the age to come.
Have a heart that longs to serve the Lord by serving others and don’t worry, you will have a fantastic seat in the age to come.