At first glance, today’s Gospel reading appears to be made up of three distinct units: a passion prediction, a request from the sons of Zebedee, and a lesson about leadership. Upon reflection, we can see that these three pieces of the story are interrelated. The key to this interpretation comes at the end, when Jesus says: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Read as a whole, this passage tells us not only who Christ is, but who we are called to be as disciples.
This is the third time that Jesus has predicted his passion in Mark’s Gospel, and it is the most detailed. And yet, the disciples once again demonstrate their lack of understanding. Following Jesus’ description of his impending suffering, death and resurrection, James and John ask him for seats at his right and left in his glory. They fail to see that to share in Christ’s glory, they must first share in his suffering. Ultimately, Jesus tells them that those positions are not his to give.
Then, Jesus gathers the others to talk about what it means to have true authority, and leadership. A disciple’s greatness is not defined by power, position, or prestige. Rather, to be the greatest disciple is to be the humblest servant. Christ gave us the perfect example of servant leadership, not only in how he lived, but also in how he died. He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for our sake, so that we might be saved.
To be faithful followers of Christ, we must do the same. We must have an attitude of service, and not a lust for power. Jesus has shown us the way to his glory, and it is the way of the cross. Like Christ, we must lay down our lives in service of others.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator