Mark 10:41-45 (NIV) When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 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. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 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.”
The concept of “downward mobility” that Jesus taught and lived out is very difficult for the people of the world to grasp, let alone implement in their lives. That’s because it militates so strongly against everything that the world system tells us about how to be successful.
According to the ways of the world, the race goes to the swift and clever, and the victory to the strong and smart. So if you want to be successful, you have to ruthlessly seize every opportunity to get into the higher-up slots when they come into view. To be honest, the other ten disciples were indignant with James and John, not because they had done something morally wrong, but because they had beaten them to the punch. James and John had seen an opening and had taken it while the other ten were still waiting for the perfect opportunity.
But Jesus needed to show them that the whole paradigm that they were thinking in was in complete contrast to the ways of the kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom was not a kingdom of the world, to be run by the rules of the world. It was the kingdom of God, which operates on God’s priorities and principles, and is based on His character.
Instead of the leaders of God’s kingdom lording it over those beneath them in the hierarchy,, they live to serve others and help build those others up. Instead of exercising authority over those below them, they intentionally lower themselves to the position of slave, serving the needs of those others. Instead of building a fortune and a comfortable lifestyle for themselves, and looking to make their own lot more pleasant and secure, the leaders in God’s kingdom willing lay down their lives for those beneath them.
The model for this new paradigm was and is Jesus Himself. Jesus never laid aside any earthly treasure for Himself, but relied on God the Father to provide what was needed each day. He did not try to build an empire that would give Him power and authority over others, but lived each day to exalt the name of God by showing forth His glory in His every thought, word, and deed. In fact, Jesus’ focus was never for a moment on the things of this world and the things that people tend to rely on for security. His eyes were continually on eternity, and His every thought on how to draw as many people into that eternity as possible.
The reason that this paradigm shift was such a hard sell for His disciples was that they were still at this point creatures of the world. Their priorities, their worldview, and the way that they thought were all worldly, and kept them, at this stage of the game, from living out the ways of the kingdom. But Jesus patiently taught them, over and over again, realizing that in just a few weeks, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would transform their minds and change their hearts, and then they would be able to start living out the ways of the kingdom in their lives.
Father, it is still often difficult for us to think in the ways of the kingdom, to instinctively react in self-sacrificing kingdom ways. But every time we catch ourselves thinking like the world, or strategizing like the world, or jockeying for position like the world, we need to recognize that that is a symptom of a place in our heart that has not been fully transformed and recast into the image of Jesus. Help me, Lord, to see myself clearly, to evaluate myself honestly, and any time I find a worldly place in my heart or mind, help me to bring that part of myself to You to be transformed and filled to overflowing with Your Spirit. Amen.