The Servant Leader
Lord Jesus, I am grateful for Your life, example, instruction and guidance. Holy Spirit, I wait for Your direction.
Read MARK 10:32–45
32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
The Request of James and John
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “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?”
39 “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, 40 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.”
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 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. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 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.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Leadership is not about having a high position or rank. What really matters is how one cares for others.
What kind of mental image does the word “leader” conjure up for you? A military general, a political patriarch, an aged grandmother, a saint of the church? In this passage, the “discipleship discourse” reaches its climax, beginning with Jesus’ final and most detailed Passion prediction and ending with his incredible statement about his own mission, the heart of Mark’s theology. In between these deep and sublime messages stands a lesson in leadership, with the almost ridiculous ambition of the disciples in their quest for the most privileged positions. Clearly, they have learned nothing since the earlier episode (Mark 9:33–35). Yet there is also something crucial in this juxtaposition, for leadership in the church, then and now, must be based on the example and model of Christ if it is truly to serve his Gospel.
James and John show that they desire position and authority, but they have little appreciation of the sacrificial cost that comes with it (the “cup” and “baptism” in 38 almost certainly refer to Jesus’ suffering). The rest of the disciples are “indignant” (41), presumably because they desired these positions for themselves. Jesus likens this attitude to those of the Gentile rulers, who “lord it over” their subjects (42; the verb indicates violence, aggressive conquest and oppression). It is such leadership that results in the death of Christ, so graphically described at the start of the passage; it is the antithesis of a Christ-like approach.
Christian disciples should not seek privilege, though they may be given it, and should lead through service and self-sacrifice for the benefit of those they serve. Our model is Jesus, whose own self-giving and willingness to serve is not abdication of leadership responsibility, but the very means by which salvation and freedom can come—to us. Hallelujah! Thanks be to God.
Write a short note to someone you know in leadership, or do some other small act of kindness to encourage them.
Lord, today I commit to serving others as a witness to Your Lordship in my life.