I was reading Mark this morning, specifically the incident that is recorded of James and John coming to Jesus with a request. Their request was the only request of its kind that is recorded in the New Testament. These two disciples had come to ask Jesus if they could be seated one on his right hand and one on his left hand when Jesus was ruler of his kingdom. They wanted to reserve their place and right, as they saw it, to the most important seats beside the ruler. Jesus tells them that they don’t know what they ask. He asks them can they drink the cup he himself must drink? They blithely reply that they can. In their thinking, anything that he can do they also can do. He is a man like themselves, isn’t he? They don’t yet understand who Jesus really is nor what it is that Jesus must do, but that is another thing altogether. Mark also tells us that when the rest of the disciples found out about what James and John had been asking about they were angry. Jesus calls them together and tells them that in his kingdom things are different from the ways of kingdoms on earth. In order to be the first in his kingdom they need to become the one to serve all others!
As the time comes closer for Craig and I to be in Tsumkwe I found this a timely reminder. The disciples were a diverse group of fellows. They were different socially, economically and politically. Not unlike our team members will be. If it hadn’t been for Jesus calling them to follow him some of them would probably never have normally met as their differences and diverse interests would have given them no common ground for getting together. Most likely without Christ we would never meet or be in relationship with our team members! When the disciples looked to Jesus and focused on their common ground they saw themselves differently, but when James and John took their eyes off Jesus and looked at themselves things changed dramatically in the way they viewed the other disciples. But it wasn’t only their view of the other disciples that changed, their whole perspective of and their motivation for what they were about changed and this would have been highly detrimental to Jesus’ purpose had he allowed it to pass without comment. A very vivid reminder to me of the necessity of keeping Jesus central in all that we do and in remembering the first must be last, so counter-cultural and counter-human nature!