Summary: Power, position and prestige - where do they belong in a Christian’s vocabulary?

Briningham 19-10-03

Mk 10:35-45 - Christian leadership

Power, Prestige and Position, where do they belong in a Christian’s vocabulary?

Today’s Gospel reading is all about these topic. James and John were trying to use their influence to get into the top positions in God’s kingdom and Jesus would have none of it. And the reaction of the other disciples wasn’t exactly laudatory either.

What I like about the Bible is that it is so real. The leaders of the Early Church are shown in all their humanity - warts and all.

And in our Gospel reading we see them- once again GETTING it wrong. And yet it was on the back of these disciples, that Jesus chose to build his church.

That gives me heart. Because –even though I get it wrong – God doesn’t give up on me.

Story: Imagine if Jesus had sent the resume of the 12 apostles off to a management consultancy team, like McKinsey for evaluation, I wonder what might have come back.

Perhaps a letter like this:

Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 11 of the 12 men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. Please note you forgot to send the resume of Simon the Cananean.

We have evaluated them against the norms required for “Senior British Managers”and find that most of your nominees are lacking in

background, educational and

vocational aptitude

for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.

They do not seem to have any concept of team and so we would suggest that you continue your search for persons with experience and proven capability. To the specifics:

Simon barJonah (who you also refer to as Peter) is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. He is not the sort of person you can rely on in a crisis to keep his cool.

His brother Andrew, (as indeed Philip too) seem to be followers and seem to have no leadership skills at all.

James and John barZebedee place personal interest above company loyalty. Further they seem to have a tempemental flaw – I believe you described them as the “Sons of Thunder”. This puts a serious question mark about how they will react under pressure.

Thomas demonstrates a rather unhealthy questioning attitude that will tend to undermine morale.

We feel that it is our duty to inform you that

Matthew has been blacklisted by the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce.

James, barAlphaeus and Simon the Zealot (also known as Thaddeus) have radical leanings and the latter is closely associated with a terrorist movement.

We wonder how much Nathanial heart is in the Enterprise. Like Thomas he has an unhealthy questioning attitude.

There is only candidate who shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness who interacts well with people well and has a keen business mind. He has contacts in high places and is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible.

We recommend that you take Judas Iscariot on as your right-hand man.

Yours sincerely

J. Barabbas

But actually this is the very reverse of what God CHOSE.

God’s ways are not man’s ways.

Conventional wisdom says that you should strive for position, prestige and power.

We are all taught - from an early age - that it is a jungle out there and we have strived to get ahead.

This is how James and John reacted in our Gospel reading this morning. And indeed how the remaining 10 also reacted.

To sit on Christ’s right hand and on his left was tantamount to asking to be the “power behind the throne” in God’ kingdom – with authority just behind that of Jesus. They wanted to use their friendship – and possibly there were related to Jesus – to secure the top spots for themselves.

But this is not the way God works. God is looking for servant leaders: Look what Jesus said:

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mk 10:42-45

Because service is the heart of Christian leadership.

That might cost: Jesus asked James and John

"Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"

39"We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. (Mk 10:38-39)

Jesus was clearly alluding to his own upcoming death on the Cross – and probably prophetically to James’ execution for the faith – the second Christian martyr recorded in the book of Acts (Acts 12:2)

If we want to see God’s kingdom spread in our country – we must be prepared to give our lives for it.

Story: I have just been reading an inspiring book about the life of the Chinese House Church leader – Brother Yun. It is estimated that there are 58 million Chinese Christians in the House Church Movement – more than the total population of England. Yet what strikes me about Brother Yun’s story is his humility. He was prepared to suffer to fulfil God calling in his life. A real servant heart.

Can I commend the book to you: The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hathaway?

Jesus is the Servant–King. To the world that seems like an oxymoron. A king doesn’t serve – or does he. The challenge form the Gospel reading this morning is that as Christians we are called to be countercultural.

Ours is not to seek positions of influence and power. Our calling is to serve, with all of our gifts in the church to which Jesus has called us. And Christian leaders are called not to be dictators but to serve even more.

Look again at what Jesus said:

…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. (Mk 10:43-44)

If we, as Christians, seriously want to follow the Master, St. Paul gives us a challenge:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Phil. 2:5-11)

That’s food for thought isn’t it?