of our Lord Jesus’ disciples --- the Zebedee brothers, James and John, had
their eyes riveted on positions in God’s kingdom -- no doubt after it became
clear to them that our Lord Jesus would be leaving this world soon as
announced. They wanted to secure their future by wriggling their way into
positions of authority for their security and social status. Championing their
cause was their mother, who one day came to Jesus to ask a favour of Him:
“Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at Your right and the other
at Your left in Your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:21)
Our Lord Jesus tried to brush them off, but they insisted that they could ‘drink the cup;’ that is, could take up the task and adequately perform the duties required of them in that position. Then He told them bluntly that it was not for Him to decide who sat in those positions for they had already been reserved. “These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” (Matthew 22:23b)
Our Lord Jesus was certainly taken aback by such a request. In our world today, we are not surprised that some people have their personal agendas whilst still serving you. Of course, the other ten disciples were angered by such self-centred attitudes. Our Lord Jesus saw this as a fitting opportunity to teach them about servanthood. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (unbelievers) lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave----just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
In the gospel of Luke, chapter 22 verses 26 to 27, Jesus admonishes them not to consider themselves as benefactors of those over whom they exercise authority. “But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
For all those who seek and are engaged in public office, greatness comes from serving others, not from serving yourselves. Holding public office is not about exercising your authority over others, inflating your ego or being involved in a quest of self-aggrandisement, but rather to help out and gain satisfaction from your accomplishments. All leaders are called to a life of self-sacrifice; to putting their personal agendas aside and striving for the common good.
Our Lord Jesus gave us this example when he stooped down and washed the feet of His disciples. Thinking it rather demeaning for the Master to wash his feet, Peter objected. “Lord are you going to wash my feet? No, You shall never wash my feet.” (John 13:6, 8) Our Lord Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (verse 8) after which Peter changed his mind.
Subsequent to this lesson in humility, our Lord Jesus summed up in these words. “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things you will be blessed to do them.” (John 13:12b--17)
Peter in his epistle buttressed the point when he wrote; “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers ---not because you must but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd [King Jesus] appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will not fade away.” (1 Peter 5:2-4)
A crown awaits all those who hold high office in government and in various communities; those who serve out of their love for God and are not motivated by the lust of being in the limelight pushing their own selfish ends. This is very true also for the Church of Jesus Christ. We must be reminded that our authority is premised on service and ought to take our cue from Master Jesus to serve out of love.
Are our leaders copying the example of our Lord Jesus? “Your attitude should be the same as 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.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
In His kingdom, selfless service – serving out of love -- is the model set by our Lord Jesus Christ who undeniably ministered to the needs of others.