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In the Gospel Reading today, the sons of Zebedee, James and John approach our Lord Jesus Christ for a very delicate and direct request. They asked if they could sit one at his right and the other at his left in his GLORY, that is after his suffering and death.

Our Lord answers by asking them if they would be able to drink the cup that he is to drink and the baptism he is to receive, and they agreed. He further tells them that though, they may be able to drink the cup and receive the baptism, the positions at his right and left are not for him to apportion as God exclusively reserved them for specific individuals.

The request of James and John infuriated the other ten apostles as they became angry with the Zebedee sons for their rapaciousness and greed. Sensing the rising tension, our Lord summons the twelve for a quick instruction.

Jesus emphasizes the importance of humility and service. He insists that self-giving service is the only greatness recognized by God, and only those who give of themselves for others will be the big winners with God. In so many words, Jesus insists that we must: Climb down the ladder to greatness. In other words, instead of ambitiously seeking to climb the ladder and attain greatness, we must sacrificially serve others. Jesus reveals that He is the King of an upside down kingdom. His rules go against the grain of what our world says.

In our day and age, we still have people seeking various leadership positions not for the sake of serving the need of others but for self- aggrandizement and the pleasure of their respective households. Any Leadership that does not serve the people is tyranny. Are we not repeating and multiplying the selfish ambition of the sons of Zebedee who sought the positions in Christ’s glory as a form of victory over the other apostles? There is need for us to understand leadership as a humble service to others. The Centurion who approached our Lord Jesus Christ to ask for the healing of his servant (Matt 8: 5-13), remains a ponderable example of leadership through service.

James and John are certainly willing to follow Jesus into glory. Jesus tries repeatedly to help them understand that his glory depends on his complete submission to God, even if it leads to death. A follower of Jesus cannot experience one without the other. Rulers must be servants. Leaders must be followers. Masters must be slaves.

Jesus instructed his disciples concerning their aspirations to greatness. The general standard of greatness for Jesus’ contemporaries was power and the extent of that power was determined by how many people were in one’s service or under one’s command. Jesus held forth a different standard of greatness, namely, that of service. The test of greatness in the reign of God is not how many people are in my service but how may I be of service to the many.

So let us be servants to one another, seeking only to love one another and to do what will benefit the other.  Let us walk with Jesus and accept the sufferings that must come if we are truly loving others.

Beloved, in our families, church communities, workplaces, schools or localities, let us not only wait for the opportunity to be served, but let us look for the opportunity to serve. Furthermore, let us do so with humility and cheerfully offer the sacrifice which that service may require, conscious that it is the Lord we serve. Beloved, he who sees all our small and great services will honour us eternally. Amen!