URC Daily Devotion 29 February 2024

29 February 2024
St Mark 10: 35 – 45

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.’


If someone said to you ‘will you do something for me?’ You may well respond by saying ‘it depends what it is’ – just as Jesus does here. We should notice that the request of James and John comes immediately after Jesus has told the disciples  – for the third time – that he is going to suffer and die, and rise again. No sooner has he said this, than these two disciples ask to share Jesus’ future kingly power and glory, prompting Jesus to make it clear that following him is not about power and glory but about sharing his suffering and serving as he served.

In her excellent commentary on Mark’s gospel Morna Hooker suggests that ‘the application of this teaching to the life of Mark’s own community would have been clear; there may well have been church leaders there whose attitude was similar to that of James and John, seeing leadership in terms of status and privilege. For them, the teaching that true greatness is seen in service was certainly necessary. At the same time, the threat of persecution was a very real one; the warning that being Jesus’ disciple was likely to mean sharing his suffering may well have been all too relevant in their situation.’

You may not be a church leader, but the desire to have power and influence within churches is not limited to those in positions of leadership. You may feel that being persecuted for following Christ is something which only happens in certain countries, but if being a Christian was a criminal offence in this country, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Jesus’ words about his disciples being called to serve, rather than to be served, apply to us all, but we each have to work out what they mean for us personally in our churches, our families and our communities. Perhaps you could spend a few minutes reflecting on this now…


Loving God, as we give You thanks for the service and sacrifice of Jesus, our crucified and living Lord, empower us by Your Spirit to follow him in this way, as in others, that Your saving love may be made known our loving service and sacrifice in Jesus’ name. Amen.



Today’s writer

The Rev’d John Matthews, retired Baptist minister, member of Wellingborough URC



New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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