Seats of Honor or the Servant’s Bench

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And 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, 40 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.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:35-34

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A discarded love seat outside of a flooded home near Baton Rouge, LA. Notice that the house is on stilts, but was still flooded. Photo taken June 2016

Where is your seat of honor? Everyone has one, though few of us would be so bold as James and John, the sons of Zebedee. It may be the judgment seat; finally meting out justice as it is truly due, and gaining revenge for some injustice you have endured. It may be the seat of honor at the banquet, where people see just how good and faithful you have been. It might be the preacher’s seat, able to clarify once and for all what everyone needs to hear. It may be the driver’s seat in a primo ride, on the road that you own, where everyone yields to your need to get to where you’re going. It might be the movie director’s chair which allows you to set the stage and move the players in and out of your life, performing on cue, actors in your life’s play.

There are literally thousands of chairs in which we want to sit: To make a difference. To have a say. To set things right. To get our due. To fulfill our fantasies. To teach a lesson. But to sit at the right or left hand of God would be the ultimate seat. Most of us would not presume to sit there. In fact we are very much like the disciples: indignant, and perhaps a bit anxious.

Note how Jesus gathers “them” to himself and teaches them about greatness. Is the “them” James and John, or does it include also the rest of the disciples? The language is not definitive in this regard, though it is safe to say that Jesus wanted not only James and John to know this, but certainly the rest of the disciples as well.

That Mark records this would also indicate that we might be edified by this teaching of Jesus. He wants us to know that the path to greatness is through the servant’s quarters. He wants us to realize that if we are always serving ourselves, we are short-circuiting the blessings of God and undercutting our own well-being. Jesus is going to die and by doing so will be given the name that is above every name. He will serve so fully that he will spend his lifeblood to save us, and through that will be given eternal life.

I have a long way to go in applying this lesson to my life. I believe it wholeheartedly. I want to live for others, and serve people to God’s glory. I just so often fail, and take the chair of honor rather than servant’s bench. Thank God that Jesus is my righteousness! I hope to reflect that today in my dealings with everyone in my life.

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