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Have you ever finished first or won a competition? How did you feel in that moment?*
I remember running an unusual race in grade twelve. Usually the goal of the race is to cross the finish line as fast as possible. You are only responsible for yourself and there was always tense competition among my peers. However, in this particular race, we were paired up with 10-year-olds. The race could only have been won once both of the partners had crossed the finish line. When the signal to start was given, many older boys, who were much bigger and stronger, started to run as fast as they could, leaving their younger partners behind. The younger boys were slow. One athletic peer of mine was a probable winner of the race, but he experienced a frustration: by the time he reached the finish line, his 10-year-old partner was not even halfway there and was already slowing down.
When James and John approached Jesus with a request, it seemed that they had the usual race scenario in their minds (see Mark 10:35-40). The leadership principles of the Gentile world are: I will be the first, I will be in charge, I will take care of myself and will prepare a place for myself ahead of others. Jesus teaches us that in God’s Kingdom, the winners of the race are not the fastest ones, but instead are those who take care of and serve others.
In the text, Jesus asked James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?” This is a question which Jesus frequently asks people. It is a question that reveals the deepest motives of our hearts. The answers vary. For instance, Zebedee’s sons answered that they desired to sit together with Jesus in his glory. In contrast, the blind man, Bartimaeus, asked Jesus to restore his faith (Mark 10:51).
The disciples were going to Jerusalem together with Jesus. Today you and I are also on a journey. As we walk alongside Jesus, he is asking us the same personal question: “What do you want me to do for you?”
Gediminas Dailyde is part of Free Christian Church in Vilnius, Lithuania.