So middle school right? We’ve all been there. It’s really important to be cool in middle school. To be popular, to be the best. To be the most favorite of all the others.
And maybe, you have a situation like this: two kids want to up their cool status, so they go the coolest kid in school privately and ask, “yo, can we sit right next to you at the lunch table today? Like one of us on your right and one of us on your left?”
I mean, this would really boost their lunchtime stats. Get the others looking, a total place of honor to be seated next to the coolest kid in school. That will totally get them a leg up.
And you know how important it is, right to be RIGHT next to them… not 3 seats down, not across from the cool kid, but RIGHT next to them.
And then, your other friends find out about it, and are like, ohhhh no they didn’t. Did you hear what they did? Can you believe they would go behind our backs and claim the good seats without us? Mhmm.
James and John, cozy up to Jesus and are like, Hey Jesus, we want you to do us a favor. Anything we ask. Right? When it comes time, we want to have the throne seats next to you in heaven. One of us will be on your left side and one of us will be on your right, ok? Ok good. And obviously when the other disciples find out about it they are like, you’ve got to be kidding me? Who do these sons of Zebedee think they are? First dibs on heaven seats. The audacity.
I mean you can see this playing out, it's about to go full on mean girls -- Bible style.
Which by the way, my favorite comedian calls the zoomers (gen Z) “the Children”. Well “the children” have never seen the movie Mean Girls. It’s very tragic and ages me greatly. Maybe there’s a few others of the older crowd out there that have never seen it either.
It’s from 2004, with Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. Very iconic to the millennials… Maybe you’ve heard a few phrases, “You can’t sit with us!” and “She doesn’t even go here!”
Anyways, back to the Bible, Jesus does not buy into their mean girls game. You can almost hear Jesus laughing at them, “you have no idea what you are asking. Do you really think you can take it? DO you really think you can drink the cup I drink? Do you really think you can be baptized with what I am baptized?”
Because you see, the cup that Jesus drinks is of his own betrayal, his own crucifixion. Do you guys really think you can get on board with that? How many of us can? We have the luxury of knowing what is about to happen to Jesus, the disciples don’t yet… even though Jesus has told them three times now. WE know, and how many of us wilingly sign up for torture, suffering, and death for the sake of others? … Yeah it's a tall order. Jesus knows this.
He also knows that they are about to walk into this. They ARE going to suffer for this. For him. For the sake of the Gospel. James will be executed later in Acts. They are walking into an unknown line of fire that they don't yet realize yet because being a follower of Jesus has never been easy. Their argument alone indicates that they have no idea what's going on.
They are absolutely captivated with Jesus. They think he is the absolute coolest Rabbi kid in town. They want to be the best, the closest to this coolness. This power. They think they are going to ride it with Jesus all the way to the top. This man is on fire. He is going everywhere, building a rep. Healing people, feeding people, walking on water. This guy is straight up cool.
And they are giving in to that human nature of wanting to get a piece of that action. To be cooler, more important, to climb the ladder. To gain the prestige and fame.
And Jesus is like, nah guys, you got it all wrong. This train is not riding to the top. It’s riding to death for sake of the world. You really want to be on it? Do you?
Being a follower of Jesus can be brutal. But they didn’t know that yet. And Jesus is trying to give them a hint.
This is the hint, “Real power doesn’t come from ruling over others, it comes from service.”
I was on the lead staff of a large congregation a few years ago, and our senior pastor always said, “being a leader means you are willing to clean up the vomit.” that you’ve got to be willing to do the things no one else wants to do. It's about service.
This ideology about leadership is called servant leadership. Much of this can be derived from the teaching of Jesus. Because how did Jesus lead?
Jesus healed, he spent time with those that were unclean, unfit to spend time with important people. He touched them. He was willing to go places no one else would. He got down on a dirt floor and washed the sand and caked mud off the feet of his neighbors by hand.
To be a follower of Jesus, you gotta get dirty. It's not about being perfect, it's not about trying to get closer to God, God has already come to you. Jesus says it's time to get dirty.
There are so many parts to ministry that aren’t pretty, or fun. And yes, I have have cleaned up a preschoolers vomit in the church. Sometimes it's about painting a room. Cleaning, scrubbing the floors with your bare hands. Fixing toilets! Sometimes it's putting in countless and thankless hours going through old paperwork. Sometimes it's taking out the trash every Thursday night.
God’s work isn’t glamorous. It isn’t going to look good on a resume or help you get ahead in your jobs. And most of the time it's thankless and messy. It’s not going to get you a special seat.
So why do it? Why do all this thankless stuff if it isn’t going to get us anywhere? It’s not going to save us, Jesus already did that. It’s not going to get you closer to God, get a good seat in heaven. God has already come to you. God already loves you. SO why?
“The son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Martin Luther says, “because of this gift, we cannot help but to do good works incessantly.”
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, wonders happen. The Holy Spirit guides us, encourages us, and compels us to do good works because we are filled with faith. This service comes out of our gratefulness to God. It is our faith in God, our faith in Jesus, and our faith in this promise that fills our hearts and we just can’t help but to do God’s work on earth. We do these things because we are grateful to God. Because we love God. Because we love Jesus. Because he gave his life for us. For me. I don’t know about you, but the least I can do is take out the trash.
It’s not always easy or pretty. It's dirty work. Jesus says, “If you wish to become great, you must be a servant.” So powered with the gift of the Holy Spirit, let’s get dirty and serve God. Amen.