James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, “We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Do you remember a time when you felt important because of your association with someone else? Maybe it was in school and you got to hang with the cool kids. Maybe it was being asked to lunch by company leadership. Perhaps it even happened at church when you spent more time than usual with your new friend, the Pastor.
As humans we sometimes think our friends, acquaintances, or colleagues elevate our status. It is true that whom we surround ourselves with is important. Parents are correct when tell their children to hang out with the right crowd. Successful people do most times achieve success by surrounding themselves with other successful people. But the reality is that who we really are is mostly determined by our own actions, not the actions of others.
The trap for a Christian is the belief that it is enough to simply associate with Jesus Christ. James and John thought something similar in Mark’s Gospel when they asked for seats of prominence next to Jesus in his coming Kingdom. But Jesus explained to them that essentially it is not who you associate with that makes all the difference, it is becoming like those with whom you associate. We are called to become Jesus in the world, to be a servant of all, just as he chose to do.
I bet it was great for the first disciples to hang with Jesus, the Savior of the World. But in the end, the goal was not for others to look at them and think they were so wonderful. The goal was for others to look at them and see not themselves, but only Jesus. If that can happen to us, now, that’s cool.