And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come to Him, saying, Master we would that you should do for us whatever we shall desire.
And He said to them, “What would you that I should do for you”?
They said to Him, “Grant to us that we may sit, one on Your right hand, and the other on Your left hand, in Your glory.”
But Jesus said to them, “You know not what you ask: can you drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
Just before this passage Jesus had been telling his disciples how he was going to suffer, be mocked, scourged and spat upon, and how he would be killed and yet rise again – see Mark 10:34. You might think that the disciples would be interested in this, or feel some sympathy for the Lord. Perhaps they should enquire about the meaning of His word – that He would rise from the dead. But no, none of this. With a real lack of sensitivity they bring up the issue that is really important to them – namely, achieving rank in the Kingdom of God. They want to be glorified, they want to be closer to Jesus than anyone else. They want to sit on His right and on His left, in glory.
How very like us. We don’t feel much for the sufferings of the Lord. We are thinking about how we can be great in the Kingdom of God. Perhaps James and John felt that with all this talk of Jesus’ death they had better be quick to secure their place in the future hierarchy. I don’t know.
See how gentle Jesus is. He doesn’t rebuke them harshly. He simply tells them that they don’t know what they are asking. They think they are merely asking for glory. Jesus is telling them – in asking for this glory you are also asking for a great measure of suffering. Can you suffer like I will suffer – asks Jesus?
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 “but though our outer man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.”
There is a direct relationship between suffering now and future glory. If we aspire to share in the future glory of which Paul speaks, there must be suffering now. And the more glory there, the more suffering must work now. That is why Jesus asked James and John if they could be baptized with the baptism with which He Jesus would be baptized. Jesus was referring to His suffering on the cross. Notice how Jesus keeps coming back to this theme, while the disciples are thinking about how they can be great.
For Paul, these sufferings, even the “perishing of the outer man” was considered light affliction. Paul saw it as light because he had revelation of eternity. Anything we suffer here is light in eternal terms. The suffering of those in hellfire is real suffering. Hard as it may be to accept, nothing here can really compare to it. But for the believer, there is even a sweetness in suffering, so that it may be termed light, as long as our eyes are on the eternal things of the Word of God and not on the temporary things of this earth.
There is nothing wrong with aspiring to great things in the Kingdom. But just remember that it will entail faithfulness in suffering.
“This is a true saying, If a man desires the office of a bishop (overseer) he desires a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). Another translation describes it as a noble thing.
Folks, as I said to one prominent Christian leader in Mumbai, ‘Leadership is pain’. He agreed with me. There is a lot of pain in true Christian leadership. You give up your own comfort to be available for others. You crucify your own flesh so that the power of God can work through you to bless others. You give up your own interests to be interested in the needs and wants of others. A true Christian leader must be there for the weak. It is not a question of how strong you can be in yourself, but rather, how available and helpful can you be to those who are weak – who need a spiritual father, shepherd, doctor and nurse. Christian leaders are charged by God to care for the weak, and to teach them things that will make them spiritually strong.
Please therefore pray for your leaders. If you are smart, you won’t push yourself into leadership too fast. Let God put you there if He wants to. Desire to serve, desire to be a blessing in all you do and say – and let God do what He thinks best for you. Sooner or later, you will encounter some suffering on the path of following Christ. And if your calling is great, perhaps you will encounter more suffering than most. Be faithful to God’s calling. If he puts you in leadership, it is a sacred trust. You will fight more demons if you are in leadership than if not – whether you are conscious of the source of your troubles or not.
The Bible says, “Obey them that have the rule over you; and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account. Let them do it with joy, and not with grief, for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17). You may have been hurt by some Christian leaders somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you should not have leaders who rule over you. Ask God to lead you to some that you can love and trust, who are faithful to God. Its not always so easy to find such people. Find the best you can, and do your best to make it easy for them to be great leaders.
Leaders must give account for those they are leading. Are you ready to do that for others? If not, prepare yourself, and sow for a good future in leadership by being a follower that gives joy to Christian leaders.