We read that “the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus.” Since James and John were Zebedee’s sons, this must be their mom. She makes an interesting request of Jesus. What does she ask? She asks for her sons to be given seats of prominence in God’s Kingdom. A bold request. Why do you think the ten other disciples got so upset by this? Could it be that they were secretly hoping for the same thing?
Jesus takes this opportunity to draws his disciples’ attention to a contrast between how “the Gentiles” lead and how his followers should lead. Simply put, typical leadership uses power for its own good; Christ-like leadership uses power for the good of others.
Unfortunately, our leadership often looks a lot like “the Gentile” approach. It’s way too easy to “exercise authority” over others. This is especially easy for Americans visiting another culture. We immediately notice things that we’d like to change, fix or at least comment on. Pay attention to that tendency in yourself—both at home and abroad.
When you notice it, remember Jesus’ words: “Not so with you.” Jesus calls us to a different kind of leadership. He calls us not to rise up, but to lie down. He invites us to serve rather than to demand service.
What are some ways you could do that during your ministry trip? How could you serve your teammates? How could you serve your hosts? Be careful even in that. Be sure that your service is something that is truly helpful and not simply something that you want to do to make yourself feel better. Be sure that you are lifting others up as opposed to lifting yourself up.
Here’s something else to pay attention to: the national leaders with whom you interact. How do they lead? How do they serve? What have they done to put the needs of their church and their community above their own?
Jesus points the way toward true, life-changing leadership. If you watch for it, I bet you’ll see some global leaders who follow that example. What kinds of changes would you need to embrace to follow him and them down that path of servant leadership?
In what ways could you use your influence and position to benefit those around you today?