To get a better picture of Jesus, let’s look at two stories together, Mark 10:32-34 and then verses 35-45:
They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; 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. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
What we see here is two contrasting ideals with Jesus trying to reconcile them. We see Jesus teaching about what must happen, that he must suffer and die to save the people from their sins. His purpose is to teach us to love, to care, to serve, to forgive – and ultimately, his purpose is to go to the cross (and the empty grave) for our sins.
Jesus is teaching them that. But they aren’t getting it.
Then we see in the second portion James and John trying to wiggle their way into being the greatest in the kingdom. And Jesus says (paraphrasing), “guys, you are missing the point here.”
Your life, your greatness, it doesn’t come from power or prestige or titles. It comes from serving. The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. That is the path he walks. And that is path that he calls us to walk.
Serve. We are not like the world. It is “not so among us.” We’ve got to be different. The only way that we change the world is to be different. The only way that we can make a difference in the hardened hearts of this world is through service: to love God and love our neighbor.
That’s what Jesus calls us to. That’s the path to greatness for us as Christians. Not in power, but in service.
Today, and in this soon-to-be Advent season, may we live out that love of God. May we serve.