“Not so with you. Whoever wants to become great among you must first become your servant”
(Mark 10:43). The whole episode begins with the strange request of James and John and ends in a heated dispute. It’s all perfectly natural because we were born to compete, to fight for the top spot, to look out for number one. Winning and losing is what it’s all about. Whether we admit it or not, getting ahead of our friends is a major motivation in everything we do. Before we condemn the disciples, we ought to take a good look in the mirror.

Ambition has become something of a dirty word in our day. In every company you can find a few people who are willing to play fast and loose with the truth if it will help them climb the corporate ladder. They cut corners, they lie on their expense reports, they spread malicious gossip, they abuse their authority, and they know how to stab you in the back and walk away laughing.  

Jesus knew all about men and women like that. And he understood that his followers would be tempted to use the same tactics. With four simple words he radically broke with that kind of ambition: “Not so with you.” Then he painted an entirely picture. “Do you want to be a leader? That’s great because the world needs good leaders. Here’s what I want you to do. Become a servant. Pick up a towel and start washing dirty feet.” 

No doubt the disciples recoiled at the thought of taking the menial role of a servant. After all, these were the geniuses who had just been arguing about who was going to have the seat of honor at the big banquet in the Kingdom. The whole point of picking the seat of honor is to have someone else serve you.

“Not so with you.” With those four words Jesus turned the values of the world upside down and established a new fraternity—the Royal Order of Servants. Want to join?

Lord Jesus, you came to serve and not to be served. Make us ambitious about the right things so that we will not be ashamed to wash dirty feet in your name. Amen.

You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.