I have a question for you, all of you. What do you want from life? What are your goals? Or for those who are enjoying the autumn or winter of your life what were your goals?
If you, like me, belong to the more senior generation what were your goals when you were 20 something; did you reach your goal(s); did they change as you experienced more of life?
Did you have aspirations of being a leader or your own boss or did you dream of serving people in other parts of the world by enlisting in the Peace Corp, of making the world a better place to live? What did you pray for when you asked God for help in determining the path your life would take?
James and John came to Jesus and asked if they could have the seats on his right and left when he came to glory. Jesus knew they had no idea what they were asking for and he also knew that they couldn’t even imagine where their lives were going to take them after he was gone.
That’s why he asked them, “Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?” It’s really no different than some of the questions we’ve heard from family or friends when we told them what we were going to do. Don’t you remember when you first heard, “Are you sure that’s what you want to do?” Or maybe it was, “Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?”
Either way they didn’t exactly create an atmosphere of confidence. Just like Jesus knew James and John our families and friends knew us. They knew our minds were made up and they weren’t going to change the direction we were headed. But, still they asked. They planted the seed.
James and John had given up their former lives of fishing to follow Jesus. They observed how he was received and treated by the religious of the day. They knew that if they continued on the same path, the same way of life, they wouldn’t be treated any better, maybe even worse.
So, since they had sacrificed so much why not ask for the best seats in eternity? I think Jesus understood that but he also knew it wasn’t his decision to make; only the Father could do that.
Rather than chastise them for their request he used it, again, as an opportunity to teach them…and those other disciples who knew what they’d asked for.
As He had done so many times before he taught them His ways weren’t the same as the ways of the world. Whoever aspired to be first must be willing to be last. Whoever wanted to be first must be a slave to all.
If they wanted a place in eternity, if they truly wanted to be like Jesus and follow his lead then they had to be willing to give up their grandiose ideas of being powerful and rich and instead live lives of service to people they viewed as lower than them; those they deemed as unworthy to enter the kingdom.
Is that a goal anyone would want to strive for? Is that the first thing we want to think about when we wake in the morning? Whose feet will I wash today? Whose house will I clean today? Whose rent will I pay today? Whose bedside will I visit today? Whose diaper will I change today?
What does it mean to be a servant to all? What does it mean to give away your life in exchange for the many held hostage? Who could do that?
As I think about people I know or have read about there aren’t many who fall into this category. But, I also know I don’t know it all and that there are probably many more that are servants and have given their whole lives in service to others that I’m not even aware of. Some may be sitting here today.
Not many want to make the sacrifice to live simply in order to be able to serve others. But thank God some have and they’ve changed the world. If those disciples who followed Jesus hadn’t made the choice to give up their former lives to be people of the Way then you and I would probably not be here worshipping God today.
But, God had, God has, a plan. And that was that the world was to be changed, transformed, disciples were to be made and people were to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God gave the world a chance to be saved. It began with those who were willing to be servants.
Because the disciples chosen by Jesus answered his call to follow him and dreamed of and hoped for a new Jerusalem and a new heaven they sacrificed, suffered, and died serving others, and God, as slaves and servants.
Now the question for us today is, “What do you want?” Who wants to be first? Is it you? Then you have to be a slave to everyone else.
Every one of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus are being called to serve. Every one of us who are followers of the Way is called to be slaves, to be at the beck and call of others. It’s not an easy decision to make.
And we can’t go into to this way of life believing that it will get us into the kingdom of God. That still depends upon God’s grace. But just imagine what this world would be like if there were more servants than bosses.
Friends, it still could happen. What if instead of just dreaming and talking about it every one decided the whole focus of the rest of their lives would be serving others and telling the story of Jesus’ love to everyone they met?
Friends, we are called, every one of us, to go out into the world as servants. What choices will you and I make, beginning today. How will we make the world a better place? What will you ask God for tonight before you close your eyes in sleep?
I pray that God will lead each and every one of us to be better and more faithful servants and give us the courage and the strength to serve Him wherever that may be.
Thanks be to God. He has the plan and the grace and peace for the whole world. Amen.