2 March 2011

Mark 10:32-45

"But whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all." (v. 43)


In this passage Jesus warns his disciples what is going to happen to him as he travels towards Jerusalem. It is not the first but the third time he does it (Mark 8:319:31). Nothing that was going to happen was going to take Jesus by surprise because he understood his vocation and the purpose of his life's ministry. But all of this was going to be a shock for the disciples and they were going to struggle with Jesus' focused thinking about his death, in much the same way as followers of Jesus have struggled down the ages into our own time.

The disciples James and John must have had a very different picture of the journey to Jerusalem - a triumphal entry of the king in which they will have positions of status.

But Jesus gives a full exposition of the meaning of all that is going to happen - culminating in the Cross. He tries to explain to the disciples that the Cross is not just about the forgiveness of sins but about a total reordering of the world. And that reordering calls into question the ideas, the pride and the certainty of all those who would be his followers.

Jesus is saying that following him demands a complete re-ordering of our human priorities, discipleship means a radical rethink of our lives and ambitions.

James and John had a lot to learn, not least around the table at the Last Supper, about what servanthood means for a disciple of Jesus.

To Ponder

Jesus' washing of the disciples' feet at the Last Supper (John 13:1-17) was a dramatic and profound act of servanthood. Should churches should integrate this ritual more often into our Maundy Thursday services? What do you think the effect or reaction would be?

How can we try to ensure that the positions people hold in our churches are seen as 'servant roles' not 'status roles'?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.