Isn’t it funny how our desires change over time? I think about my sons growing up and constantly telling me how they wanted to get bigger. I’m like, “You just wait. There will come a day when your desires will change.” Remember when you wanted to stay up all night? Then you had kids and now you would pay money if you could go to bed early. Think back to your childhood or your teenage years. Or your college years. Or when you were first beginning your career. What is something you used to want so badly that now, you don’t want at all?
It is interesting how our desires change over time. And the more we orient our lives around Jesus, the more we will begin to see our desires shift. In fact, a change in your desires is one way you can measure your spiritual growth over time. We’re in this Corrective Lenses series in Mark 10. We have been asking Jesus to clarify our vision. And today we’re going to seek understanding for how we ought to view power and privilege.
Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “I’m going to be condemned to death. I will be mocked, spit on, flogged and killed. Three days later I will rise.” Have you ever been talking to someone about something really important to you and their response lets you know they haven’t heard a word you’ve said?
Mark 10:35-45 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Do for us whatever we ask. You’ve got to love their honesty. “We’re not even going to pretend. Here’s what we really want.” Now in Matthew’s account, he says that it was their mom who asked Jesus about this. Now I do have a problem if that’s how it went down.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks some version of this question often. Later in this same chapter, verse 51, he asks a blind man named Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Jesus wants to know what we want, even when He wants us to want something different.
We don’t have to pretend with Jesus, but He is committed to our ongoing transformation. James and John are honest about their request. We want to occupy the next two highest places when you come into your glory. We want the position, the status, and the prominence that comes with it.
You don’t know what you are asking, Jesus says. You don’t realize what’s on the path to that kind of glory.
The other ten were indignant with James and John. Why? Are they upset because James and John have selfish ambition? Absolutely not. They didn’t want these two guys to have higher positions than they had. Sometimes, when we say we have a problem with people in power, what we actually mean is this:
We have a problem with the people who have the power we wish we had.
Jesus references something everyone knows – the way the Gentile rulers use their power. They make their power, privilege, and leadership all about ruling others. Some things haven’t changed in 2,000 years. We see so many leaders, executives, politicians, and pastors who make their position all about themselves.
Jesus uses a phrase that we need to keep in our minds if we’re going to orient our entire lives around Him. NOT SO WITH YOU!!! You know the world does it this way, but we’re going to do it different in the kingdom of God. If we aren’t careful, we’ll call ourselves followers of Jesus while actually living contrary to His ways.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I find it interesting today that there’s this outrage over people having power and privilege. The assumption is that power is bad and privilege corrupts. Let me ask you a few questions. Is the internet bad or good? Is ambition bad or good? Are people bad or good? Is wealth bad or good? Is power and privilege bad or good? It all depends on how we answer this question:
What are we doing with our power, privilege, and position?
Hear this from the One we’re meant to take our cues from:
Philippians 2:6-7 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. The most powerful being in the entire universe isn’t using his power for his own advantage. Whoa! Wouldn’t that be refreshing to see in the most powerful people in our world.
Jesus keeps talking about taking the lowest place.
John 13:3-5 Jesus knew the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Knowing all things were under his power, he got up and took the lowest position. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
When we are grasping for power, perhaps it’s because we’ve forgotten our inheritance as sons and daughters of God.
Jesus knew where he came from (his identity) and He knew where he was headed (his destiny).
There are some of us who think we have this serving thing down. In fact, we can tell people all of the ways we’re currently serving others. But if we’re serving out of duty or a sense of pride or to be seen and rewarded, is that really serving?
Do you recall the story Jesus told about the Prodigal Son? Remember how the younger son asks his father for his inheritance and he goes off and wastes it all. But he comes home and his father throws a party because his son is home. Do you remember why the older brother was so angry?
Luke 15:28-30 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
Serving only out of duty, obligation, and to earn something from his dad…but never out of joy.
Jesus said He came to SERVE and GIVE. But He doesn’t just do it because it’s the right thing or because He has to. He actually does it with JOY.
Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the JOY set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Self-absorbed people are the least joyful people on earth.
“What is the motivational joy in the heart of a true servant? The joy of a true servant is not power; the joy of a true servant is not control; the joy of a true servant is not acclaim; the joy of a true servant is not comfort or ease; and of course, the joy of a true servant is not position. What gives a servant joy in being a servant is service.” Paul David Tripp, Lead
“The beginning and the end of all Christian leadership is to give your life for others.” Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer
Who are you giving your life to?
If we’re honest – we want to be known as servants, but not if it costs us something. If it doesn’t cost you something, it’s not service and it’s not love. Love always requires sacrifice.
So what do we do?
Ask Jesus to change your desires. What specific ways is Jesus calling you not to conform to the world’s pattern, but to embrace His way? Where is He saying, “Not so with you”?
Steward your power and privilege.
Join a team. Fill out a card. Worship. Production. Host. Kids. Students. Weekday. Groups. Partners. This is good for our church and it is good for you. Team Night this coming Sunday night.
Start serving. We need to be called beyond ourselves. This is where purpose is found. This is where joy is experienced. We need habits and rhythms that form us into the way of Jesus.
Have you lost the joy of serving? Have you forgotten why you got into it in the first place?
Jesus served you. He used his power to lay down his life for you. Have you received the ransom that He’s paid?
As we receive communion today, we’re reminded that the One who has the most power used that power to lay down his life for us…to pay the ransom for our lives.