Once, on a trip to Universal Studios in Los Angeles, we splurged and purchased “express” ride passes. We loved it. The passes meant that no matter what ride we wanted to go on, we would go straight to the front of the line. We could simply show our passes and skip the long wait. I often wish I had an express pass for other parts of my life, like when I am sitting in traffic, waiting in supermarket checkout queues, on the Medicare helpline, trying to get front row seats for a music concert or an upgrade to first class. We would all love to have the privilege of an express pass.
We tend to seek out ways that will put us ahead of the rest and extend the privileges we have. It seems such a natural thing to do. Even the men who followed Jesus were not immune. In Mark Chapter 10, brothers James and John approached Jesus to see if they could extend their privilege over the rest of the disciples. They asked Jesus in verse 37, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” If Jesus was God’s King, they wanted the highest positions possible and the privilege of being his left- and right-hand men in His kingdom.
We stand back and wag our fingers in judgement at James and John. However, if we are honest, their request is not far from our own hearts. You see, what James and John did not grasp, and what we don’t grasp, is that God’s kingdom is an upside-down kingdom. God’s kingdom values what we despise and despises what we value. We value privilege; God’s kingdom despises it. We despise suffering; God’s kingdom values it.
Greatness in God’s kingdom is not found by clawing your way to the top but rather through the sacrificial service of others. Jesus replies to James and John with these hard-to-hear words in verse 43, “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Listening to Jesus’s words and following him will not result in a life of privilege. It will result in a life of sacrificial service for others. Jesus ransoms us into His kingdom not to give us seats of honour but to give us the honour of serving others as he has served us.