You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and right so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:13-16
As the time neared for Jesus to go to the cross, He began to share with His disciples the things that were about to take place. Mark 10:33-34. After Jesus explained in detail to His disciples what was going to happen to Him, two of the disciples, James and John, approached Him with a request. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” Mark 10:35. When Jesus asked them what did they want for Him to do, They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” Mark 10:37. On first glance, I thought this to be an odd request, especially right after them hearing that Jesus, the one that they called Master, was about to be unjustly accused and sentenced to die a horrible death on the cross. However, it is clear that the brothers were thinking ahead and were attempting to secure their positions in Jesus’ Kingdom when He returned. James and John were very serious about securing these positions. When Jesus asked them, “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Mark 10:38-39. Could they really? This is a clear indication that they did not fully understand why Jesus was about to be put to death.
This same type of mentality is still prevalent in the Church right now. People are competing for positions – for their “spot” – with no inclination of what it requires to be positioned in the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ response to James and John gives us insight into Kingdom positioning. He told them, “but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” Mark 10:30. The positions in the Kingdom are “to those for whom they have been prepared;” not to them who jockey for them and not even to those who think they are qualified. We can see in the following scriptures that positions in the Kingdom are not for our determining. Ephesians 4:11 states, “So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 state, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of services, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all.” 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, teaches about the different gifts of the Spirit and concludes, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
Again, Jesus – the only pattern for our lives – teaches James and John, and the other disciples a Kingdom principle which needs to be taught over and over, and over again today. Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45. You want to be great – serve; you want to be number one – serve. The only position in the Kingdom is one of servant.
In John 13:4-5, Jesus demonstrated to the disciples and to us the greatest act of humility in serving. Jesus being fully aware of His position as the Son of God and the Messiah took off his outer garment and wrapped a towel around His waist, poured water into a tub, and began to wash His disciples’ feet. When He was finished, Jesus said to the disciples, and His Word holds true for us today, John 13:13-16, paraphrased, if being in the position that I (Jesus) am in – above all – if I (Jesus) can humble myself and serve you, surely you can serve each other, because you are not greater than I (Jesus) am.