“And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.” (Mark 9:33-34)
Have you ever watched a horse race? I’ve really only seen them in movies like Secretariat or My Fair Lady, and sometimes we might catch the Kentucky Derby on television. It can be exciting, especially if the horse you are rooting for is close to the front. To those of us watching from the sidelines, the last few minutes are the most exciting as we get to see who wins! But I understand that there is a lot of planning and positioning done by the jockey at the beginning of the race – which gate they come out of, how close to the rail to get, who to keep an eye on, who to avoid, how to get to the front of the pack, what to do once you get there, etc. That’s called “jockeying for position”. The horse itself just runs and does what it’s jockey tells it to do, but the jockey is the one doing all the planning and scheming to make sure that they end up in the best place in the end and cross the finish line first, so that they get that prize.
There were two of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s disciples whom he named “Boanerges”, or “Sons of Thunder”(Mark 3:17) – they were James and John, fishermen, brothers, sons of Zebedee. They were part of the inner circle of the disciples. I’ve tried to research why he called them “Sons of Thunder”, and have found conflicting ideas. I like to think that he (knowing all that was, is, and is to come) affectionately nicknamed that because they were rough, tough fishermen whose methods may seem a little brash and boisterous, but who will one day be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to preach with boldness and to sacrifice their lives for Him: James was martyred and John was exiled for their faith in Christ.
These two “Sons of Thunder” had a mother who was no shrinking violet either, she came to the Lord and asked Him a favor:
“Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.” (Matthew 20:20-21)
I get the feeling that the disciples had all debated this amongst themselves before (see Mark 9:33,34 above), and then there must have been some discussion around the Zebedee family dinner table about the coming kingdom, and who was going to have the highest seats (before you judge the too harshly, remember that at this point the disciples did not have the full counsel of God’s Word and they did not have the Holy Spirit, and they did not understand what the kingdom was going to be like). Mother Zebedee was taking matters into her own hands and trying to get her two boys the best seats in the house in Jesus’ kingdom. She was trying to do some “jockeying for position” for her boys. What they didn’t understand, Christ tried to explain:
“Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. (Matt 20:22,23)
He had previously explained to them three times that He was going to suffer and die for the sins of the world, and now He is telling them that they were going to have to suffer also. They still didn’t get it. And what’s more, the other ten disciples were now angry at them for their “jockeying”.
“And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.” (Matthew 20:24)
Well, I guess they did it wrong! So, what’s the answer? How does one become great in the Kingdom of Heaven? I’m glad you asked, because the Lord Jesus answered that in His next sentence:
“…whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28).
It’s not “jockeying for position” that makes us great in Christ’s Kingdom, it’s servanthood! It’s lowering ourselves, humbling ourselves, denying self, taking up our crosses, and following Him (Matthew 16:24).
As some have put it: The way up is down.
- Greatness to the Lord Jesus is service, as He washed the disciples feet.
- Greatness to the Lord Jesus is sacrifice, as He gave His life as a sacrifice for many.
- Greatness to the Lord Jesus is giving, as He told the rich young ruler.
To our fleshly, mortal selves this doesn’t seem to make sense. But it works! In God’s Kingdom those who are “chief” are those who humbly and sacrificially gave and served on earth. One day every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and when we give and serve in His name He is well pleased with us.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) – click here to read my blog post with this title.
Most importantly when we are loving, kind, humble, giving, and serving, THEN we have the opportunity to share the Gospel with others – the Greatest Gift that any can give: Peace of God and Peace with God for eternity. Click here to read my post on this Free Gift.
~Graced and Grateful Grammy
The only “position” we will be in when we see Christ is flat on our face at His feet!