Verse of the Day Devotion Mark 10:44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.
These words of Jesus were spoken due to a question asked by James and John, the sons of Zebedee. “Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left.” Mark 10:37. Jesus then responds with a question of His own. “You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Mark 10:38. In the scriptures, to drink of a cup is figurative o being filled with either good or of ill things. Here, Jesus is referring to a cup of suffering. The object of this question seems to have been to see how far those two men were capable of the dignity to which they aspired and this on the principle that he who is able to suffer most for His sake will be the nearest to Him in His kingdom. They responded by saying, “We are able.” Mark 10:38a. Then Jesus responds by telling them they will suffer. “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.” Mark 10:39. And then He adds, “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Mark 10:40. It was not His choice, but it is for those who they were prepared for.
Now the disciples other ten were indignant with their request. But Jesus calls them together and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.” Mark 10:42. The leaders in that time period did not lead the people but ruled over the people. But this is not what Jesus wanted of His disciples. “But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.” Mark 10:43-44. And then He makes it clear that they should follow His way regarding this. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45.
At no place do the ethics of the Kingdom of God clash more vigorously with the ethics of the world than in the matters of power and service. The ideas that Jesus presents regarding rule and service are combined in a way that finds no obvious precedent in either the Old Testament or Jewish tradition. In a decisive reversal of values, Jesus speaks of greatness in service rather than greatness of power, prestige, and authority: whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. Theologian James R. Edwards wrote, “The preeminent virtue of God’s kingdom is not power, not even freedom, but service. Ironically, greatness belongs to the one who is not great, but the diakonos, the ordinary Greek word for waiting on tables. The preeminence of service in the kingdom of God grows out of Jesus’ teaching on love for one’s neighbor, for service is love made tangible.”
Another interesting point here is where He tells the disciples in our focus verse, “and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all”. Mark 10:44. The pronouncement is, of course, an oxymoron, for a slave, who was inferior even to a servant, was in ancient society the last and least of all. The idea of a slave being first is as absurdly paradoxical as a camel going through the eye of a needle (see Mark 10:25) and it probably induced smiles and shaking heads from Jesus’ audience. But this must be our way. Too many leaders today believe that people should serve them rather than serving the people. We see this in our governments, places of employment, and many churches as well. Now I am not saying all regarding these three categories, but speaking regarding churches, I have seen this more often than I imagined. The desire for power and dominance focuses attention on self and this kills love, for love by nature is focused on others. The Christian fellowship does not exist for their sake, but others. Neither is the apostle or Christian leader above the congregation, but part of it. The congregation does not belong to him; rather, he belongs to the congregation and the Church itself belongs to Christ.
In closing, what Jesus teaches about service and self-sacrifice is not simply a principle of the kingdom of God but a pattern of his own life that is authoritative for and transferable to disciples. The ‘for’ at the beginning of verse 45 has a strong and important purpose: disciples should adopt the posture of servants and slaves not on the basis of ethical reasoning but because it is the way of the Son of Man. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45. The life to which the gospel calls believers is not an ethical system but the way of the Lord, of which Jesus is the pattern and incarnation. This model of ministry cannot come from the secular order, but only from the unique way of Jesus, which defies the logic of this world and its fascination with dominance, control, yields, results, and outcomes. The key to the model commanded by Jesus is in the verbs ‘to serve’ and ‘to give.’ The reason why a servant is the most preeminent position in the kingdom of God is that the sole function of a servant is, through love, to give, and giving is the essence of God.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.
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