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 baptised with the baptism I am baptised 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.”
There are two types of power. There is the type of power which seeks to get things and control people, and there is the power of self-giving love. Here Jesus is telling the disciples that self-giving love is the path that they should choose.
But as with the Beatitudes, this is not some impossible ideal that he is imposing on them. Once again he is pointing to the message of the cross. When Jesus died, in his own self-giving love he took the place of sinners ‘as a ransom for many’. This very act of self-giving love was the moment when all the other powers were defeated and the kingdom of God was established.
What does this mean for us today? If we have to serve or help others, do we do it grudgingly or willingly? If we have any sort of position of leadership, do we use this to get people to make our life easy or do we serve people so that they can flourish and develop. Do we realise how much of a difference we can make when people see in us the power of self-giving love?