Matthew 20:20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Matthew tells us that jealousy is eating away at the unity of the group. The mother of James and John had asked Jesus for special favour for her sons, and they were mad: “When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers”. Mark’s Gospel records the story as initiated by James and John, whereas Matthew remembers this as the request of a pushy mother. What is fascinating is that both disciples remember this story…and it rankles! I have the sense of both Mark and Matthew still fuming over this event thirty years later when it came to putting the story into text.
The fact is that jealousy eats away at the soul. Whether it is a first generation follower of Jesus, or one of two centuries later, we all struggle with our fragile egos. Our jealousies spring from the perception that someone else has a greater advantage than us. Some seek to counter this with wealth and power; some -like James and John – think that they can regain status by sitting next to powerful people. The fact is that none of these help strengthen an insecure ego. Jesus offers a way to counter this: “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant”. The secret to being released from jealousy lies in service.
Let us – as a daily discipline – consciously dismantle our jealousy by choosing to serve the people we meet ‘with glad and humble hearts’.
44 True Greatness
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 271.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.