In Mark 10:35-45 we read of the account where James and John, the sons of Zebedee, requested of Jesus that they be allowed to sit on his right hand and on his left hand in His glory and in His kingdom. In other words, they were seeking the chief “seats of honor”. They may very well have concluded that they “rightfully deserved” these seats of honor – due to the fact that they were two of the first four disciples who were called by Jesus to become “fishers of men”. (See Matthew 4:18-22.) (One might even argue that this honor “belonged” to them because they had left their source of income as fishermen to follow Jesus.)
Notice Jesus’ response in verses 38-40,
“But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.”
(Little did James and John know what they were saying when they responded, “We can.”) Jesus further declared that they too would suffer for His name’s sake, however, it is the Father’s responsibility to seat one in a place of honor. (In Acts 12:1-2 and in Revelation 1:9 we find that James and John did suffer for Christ’s sake.)
Jesus then continued to teach His disciples that “honor” will be bestowed upon one who [ministers] unto others – as did He. But ministering to others must come from a “willing heart” which seeks to be obedient unto the Father (without pretence of notoriety). Jesus never attempted to glorify himself during his earthly ministry. His ministry of service was not for self-praise and self-glory. His service was wrought through pure love and obedience – always with eternity in mind. In verse 45 Jesus concluded with,
“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
As followers of Christ, we must now ask ourselves, “Are we serving the Lord with a pure heart in obedience unto our Heavenly Father? Or, are we seeking the seats of honor?” In verses 42-44 we also read,
“But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”
Too often we find ourselves perplexed by the paradox that Jesus taught, (that being, “serving others brings the Father’s praise.”) From our youth we are taught that the “seats of honor” are bestowed upon those who work hard, make wise choices / investments, sometimes clawing / scratching our way to the top. But in the end what have you really accomplished? Yes, you may have received the praise of men – but will it be at the expense of the praise of your Heavenly Father?
If we truly desire a “seat of honor”, let us first pattern our lives after He who is honored by the Father – Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God. We must begin by applying Philippians 2:5-8,
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
In doing so, we will have a willing servant’s heart – and as the Father honored His Son – He will also honor us. If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, we invite you to do so today. Jesus, in perfect obedience, ministered unto you through His death on the cross. Will you receive His gift of eternal life today?