To serve is to reign with Christ. With that in mind, let us welcome our next opportunity to serve, no matter how humble a task it may be.

The gospel today shows the Sons of Zebedee totally missing the point of Jesus’ serious announcement. They follow His prediction of the dire events awaiting Him and them in Jerusalem with an incredibly ill-conceived request that they would sit on Jesus’ right and left in the Kingdom. They introduce this by asking Jesus, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” How crass is that? They even irritated the other 10 who recognized how the brothers were missing the point.
As each of us works out the patterns of our own call to discipleship with Jesus, we get it sometimes and at other times miss the message like the brothers. That’s why it is crucial for us contemporary disciples to get our focus straight. James and John and the others ultimately did fully understand, but it took the terrible yet wonderful events in Jerusalem (Jesus’ death and resurrection) to finally secure the message in their hearts.

As usual, Jesus uses this event to turn the “wisdom” of the world on its head. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant,” He says. (You can bet serving was not what James and John had in mind!) Jesus continues, “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” That “slave of all” part probably had them puzzled at best. They had to realize that, for Jesus, the kingdom meant serving, and He set the first example: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” .
True greatness as Jesus teaches us can only be attained through the cross of Christ, and through genuine service. Being a servant and rejecting the values of this world may seem impractical or outmoded in today’s highly advanced and materialistic society, but the Word of God remains constant for all generations: to be first and greatest, we must be the last and the least. Authority without sacrificial love is brutish and self-serving. Jesus also used stark language to explain what kind of sacrifice He had in mind. His disciples must drink His cup if they expect to reign with Him in His kingdom. The cup He had in mind was a bitter one involving crucifixion. What kind of cup does the Lord have in mind for us? For some disciples such a cup entails physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom. But for many, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations. A disciple must be ready to lay down his or her life in martyrdom and be ready to lay it down each and every day in the little and big sacrifices required. An early church father summed up Jesus’ teaching with the expression: to serve is to reign with Christ. We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service as Jesus did for our sake.

The way to greatness can only be through servanthood and the persecution of all our attachments to this world. The way to greatness is through the little sacrifices we perform, like donating blood, visiting the sick or imprisoned, comforting the bereaved, helping build homes for the homeless, doing without to support a scholarship – the list can go on and on. It’s all about selflessness, the opposite of the world’s view of greatness. With that in mind, let us welcome our next opportunity to serve, no matter how humble a task it may be.
Usually we begin our life unwilling to serve. Through God’s grace, we may become willing servants. The Lord calls us to go even further and seek out opportunities to serve – not just serving but coming to serve. Also, Jesus calls us to serve those who rarely get served – the poor, oppressed, powerless, prisoners, nobodies, the untouchables. Then we serve as Jesus served.


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