James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
I remember when my children were very young; they used to squabble continuously about who got the first choice on anything. Sound familiar? In many ways it is just the same with adults. Some of us are more competitive than others, some more power-hungry (we all know someone who cannot bear to lose at Monopoly), but we each have within us the lurking desire to be better than someone else. It is right to tell people when they have done a good job, and we all like to have our effort and achievement recognised but when we seek power and recognition for their own sake, the healthy “Well done, mate. Good job.” can become an unhealthy obsession. Now, it’s not a bad thing to want recognition for something done well, in however small a way but in its worst excesses, we can become obsessed with status, power, authority.
Actually, we don’t have to do that. We do not have to strive for these things, and that’s not because we already have them, nor because we really do deserve them. It’s because we really don’t deserve them. You fear that you are not good enough? You’ve not. Neither am I.
It is because there was once, someone who truly did deserve all approval, all respect, all admiration, all love, because he was good enough. He was already acceptable. And his love is big enough that he will let us all become acceptable. We get to take his ‘good enough’ as our own. Why? Because we deserve it? I don’t think so!
When we realise that we cannot ever make ourselves acceptable we can simply say ‘thank you’ to the only one who can exchange our worthlessness for his worth. Jesus the carpenter – who fixes things. And when we are content that our worth in God’s sight is not earned by good works or approval from those around us, then we can be happy to take the humble position that Jesus did. That’s good enough for me!
My Father, Please teach me to find my security in knowing that you love unlovable me in seeking first your kingdom and righteousness in striving for the ultimate reward of being your good and faithful servant through your son, my Lord and example.
Ann Barton – Lay Worship Leader, Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod