“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

In ancient times, as today, kings were born in royal palaces and not subjected to the same kind of everyday hardships that “normal” people face. As the saying goes, “It’s good to be the king!” Jesus, however, is a different kind of king. He was not born in a palace, but in a barn. He was not spared hardships but endured a lifetime of suffering culminating in an excruciating death. Unfortunately, his disciples did not see this.

In Mark 10, James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples in his “inner circle,” asked Jesus if they might reign with him when he came into his glory. They saw leadership not as service but power and control. The other disciples got wind of it and became angry at them. It’s pure speculation, but I imagine they were not angry at James and John’s selfishness. They were probably angry James and John asked Jesus before they did! Selfish ambition makes a mess of everything.

Jesus doesn’t miss the opportunity, though. He corrects them. You know that’s how the world does leadership, right? They think of greatness in terms of who has the best seat in the house, who wears the finest clothes, who has the most power. But in my kingdom it’s backwards. You want to be great? Be nothing. You want to be powerful? Serve somebody. You want to reign with me?  Then come, die with me.

Jesus was not born to kick back and have lowly people wait on him hand and foot while he reigned with an iron first. Jesus was born to die. In his death, he served us by taking our place, paying the infinite debt we owe God because of sin. And when we fix our eyes on this Servant who ransomed us from slavery to self-glory through dying, we, too, will become servants who die to self and reject worldly power for something far better.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Mark 10:35-45

  1. Consider the best leaders you have ever followed? What did you admire about them?
  2. Do you see leadership as an opportunity to lord it over someone or serve them? When you see the darkness of “lording it over” come upon you, how do you respond?
  3. How should the circumstances around Jesus’ birth, life, and death shape the way we live in God’s kingdom? Do these things make any difference at all?
  4. If Jesus was born to die, what does that mean for you at home, school, work, etc.?
  5. How can you grow as a servant? Where do you need to “die” with Jesus and become more like him?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent

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