(also in Matthew 20:20-28)
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him in a low voice. “Master,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” “What is it?” he asked. “We want to sit on the thrones next to yours in your Kingdom,” they said, “one at your right and the other at your left!” But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I must drink from? Or to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” “Oh, yes,” they said, “we are!” And Jesus said, “You shall indeed drink from my cup and be baptized with my baptism, but I do not have the right to place you on thrones next to mine. Those appointments have already been made.” When the other disciples discovered what James and John had asked, they were very indignant. So Jesus called them to him and said, “As you know, the kings and great men of the earth lord it over the people; but among you it is different. Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be greatest of all must be the slave of all. For even I, the Messiah, am not here to be served, but to help others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” A ransom was the price paid to release a slave from bondage. Jesus often told his disciples that he must die, but here he told them why—to redeem all people from the bondage of sin and death. The disciples thought that as long as Jesus was alive, he could save them. But Jesus revealed that only his death would save them and the world.
James and John wanted the highest positions in Jesus’ Kingdom, but Jesus told them that true greatness comes in serving others. Jesus described leadership from a new perspective. Instead of using people, we are to serve them. Jesus’ mission was to serve others and to give his life away. A real leader has a servant’s heart. Most businesses, organizations, and institutions measure greatness by high personal achievement. In Christ’s Kingdom, however, service is the way to get ahead. The desire to be on top will hinder, not help. Rather than seeking to have your needs met, look for ways that you can minister to the needs of others. Servant leaders appreciate others’ worth and realize that they’re not above any job. If you see something that needs to be done, don’t wait to be asked. Take the initiative, and do it like a faithful servant