Where Can I Sit?
by Zack Howard
In Mark 10.35-44, the apostles James and John come to Jesus and ask him if they can sit at his right and left hand in glory. Typically, the seats at the right or left of a ruler are reserved for the most honored people in the kingdom. Their request of glory comes from faith in Christ’s ability to establish his kingdom, yet showcases the shallowness of their request. So what makes their request wrong? And how does Jesus deal with it?
1. Their faith was skewed by ambition.
The apostle’s question starts off boldly; “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you (35).” While this may originate from their faith, it still shows a desire for personal glory. The favor they ask of Jesus is to be honored at the right and left hand of Jesus in glory. They have faith that his glory is coming and he will be at the head of the glory, but their ambition skews their faith. They are more focused on what they might receive in glory.
When we think about the reward we might receive for our discipleship, our ambition sometimes gets in the way as James and John’s did. If we have been Christians for our entire life, and we have been successful at fighting temptation and living as Christ expects of us, then maybe we start to look at our “resume”, and think of what we deserve for our good Christian work. We begin to think the amount of works I have done build up a bank of spirituality that I can use and be rewarded for, more so than someone who hasn’t done the work I have done. When our faith begins to look like this, it is skewed by ambition.
2. Their ambition perverted the goal of discipleship.
James and John’s ambition perverted what they are meant to do as disciples, and Jesus uses this opportunity to remind all of the apostles their duty in verses 42-45. “43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus admonishes them that the purpose of discipleship is service.
It is astounding to see someone of Jesus’s authority not look for people to serve him, but instead he looks to serve all people. So instead of asking where they can sit, the apostles should have asked what they could do for those around them. The purpose of our discipleship is the same. Much like the example we have in Christ and his service, our goal is to serve others. That means helping people we have never met before—no matter if it seems awkward or not. It means helping someone who has hurt us before, by swallowing our pride and helping them in in their need. It means looking at Christ’s example of his service, and putting aside selfishness to help others.
James and John teach us that ambition can skew our faith, and we have to watch out for it. Jesus teaches us the true beneficiaries of our faith, and that is others. Our goal as disciples is to lighten others loads, and to humble ourselves so others can benefit from Christ’s love as well.