What should we think about James and John, the sons of Zebedee? What should we think about that day when they went to Jesus and said to him: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
What should we think about these two who were so forward, so bold, these two disciples who were so audacious that they not only wanted to stand out in the crowd, they also wanted to be ahead of the crowd, they wanted to stand at the front of the line; be ahead of all the other disciples and have the highest positions of power and privilege. We know from the text how Peter and Matthew and Levi and the others reacted to James and John when they heard what they had asked Jesus to do for them. We know from verse forty-one that they were angry, offended, they resented James and John’s attempt to lay claim to a position of privilege in the Kingdom. And we know too how Jesus dealt with James and John, and what he said to all the disciples when he noticed their anger and resentment.
But that still doesn't answer the question, what should we think about James and John? Should we regard them as being overly ambitious? Should we think less of them because they clearly thought too much of themselves? Should we just forgive them and their obvious lack of sensitivity? Should we simply excuse their lack of tact? Perhaps we should just ignore the whole thing all together and simply sweep their bold request under the rug? My instinct tells me that we should regard James and John’s audacious request with seriousness; that we should listen closely to what Jesus had to say to them and to the other disciples, for we just might be surprised about what he had to say…
The surprise is this: all of us have inside, somewhere yawning deep within, lurking in the background, swirling sensitively in the subconscious.....a "James" and a "John".....in some branch of our heart, in some peephole portion of our mind……we have within us a strong desire for God to give us whatever we ask…...we want to be served by God rather than go forth and serve on behalf of God.
So Mark’s gospel comes along and gives us a surprise reminder! We discover that in spite of all Jesus’ teachings, James and John still had worldly dreams to overcome! Realizing this, Jesus graciously told all the disciples: “…whoever wants to be first of all, must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.…” And if the King of Kings did not come to be served, but to serve….surely this is also what we lowly disciples are called to do.