Posted on June 18, 2014
#59: Trashing the Trivial
Maria is a very good Bible teacher. She invests a lot of time preparing sessions for her class of kids. One year for Easter Sunday, she’d worked hard and felt especially good about the lesson she’d planned. Sunday morning arrived and class began. It was fantastic, even better than she’d hoped. The kids seemed to be hanging on every word—until the ego-deflating moment when one little girl’s hand shot up and she blurted out, “My grandma has a mouse in her kitchen!”
Sometimes, the important things we want to say aren’t received with the same weight by our listeners. Jesus had that experience when He tried to talk with His disciples about the fate awaiting Him in Jerusalem.
Read Mark 10:35-45. Then take a look at the parallel in Matthew 20:20-28.
Jesus had just given a very specific and open prophecy about His impending death, a little over a week away. It was weighing heavily on His spirit (John 12:27-28). He needed His friends to listen and comprehend. But He was about to be disappointed by a selfish, trivial response from two disciples who were very dear to Him.
James and John were brothers (and probably Jesus’ cousins, as their mother Salome is believed to have been a sister to Jesus’ mother Mary). They, along with Peter, were the “inner circle”—the three disciples closest to Jesus. They’d been given a glimpse of His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, an inkling of the power and majesty of His coming kingdom. And they wanted a piece of it.
Totally missing the import of Jesus’ prediction, they came sidling up to ask for the most prestigious seats in His kingdom. (Matthew says their momma—Jesus’ Aunt Salome—did the talking, at least at first.) Actually they were hesitant to directly ask, probably due to a similar conversation that had ended in rebuke (see Mark 9:33-37 and post #52: Incidental Greatness in this series). Instead, they hedged, “We want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
Jesus pushed them for specifics. “What do you want Me to do for you?”
“We want to sit on either side of Your throne in Your glory,” they boldly stated.
“You don’t have a clue what you’re asking,” Jesus said.
Somehow the other ten disciples got wind of what James and John had attempted, and they were immediately incensed—most likely because they hadn’t gotten to Jesus first. James and John weren’t the only ones with aspirations.
Jesus called them all together. “You know that pagan rulers lord it over their subjects,” He said, “and higher authorities rule over the rulers. This is not to be the way of things with you. If you want to be great, you must be a servant. If you want to be first, you must be a slave to all. Even the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and to pay a ransom with His very life.”
How sad that when Jesus needed their focus, they were so self-absorbed. We would never disappoint Him like that, would we?
How hard we find it to “keep the main thing the main thing!” Just when He needs our focus to accomplish some great thing in His kingdom, we get distracted by trivial wants and personal ambitions. We’re so busy chasing our own way, we forget all about putting others first and ourselves last. Next thing we know, the great opportunity is gone—and satan is dancing on its grave.
Christ’s kingdom is never for one minute about self, but about serving. When our conversation about His church contains too many first-person pronouns, we should beware.
“I don’t like it when. . .”
“If it was up to me. . .”
“I think they ought to. . .”
“That doesn’t work for me.”
“I’m just not being fed.”
So many churches have lost momentum and credibility over self-centered issues. Most of the things we fuss over don’t matter at all. They only keep us from focusing on what Jesus wants to do through us. The question is, are we willing to trash the trivial and put His will first?
James and John got the message. They abandoned selfish pursuits and lived lives fully devoted to the Lord. James would be the first apostle martyred for the sake of Christ (Acts 12:1-2). John would live to old age through persecution and exile, leaving us five books of the New Testament and a legacy of love. “This is how we know what love is,” John later wrote. “Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. . . . Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 Jn. 3:16, 18)
Will we follow Jesus’ example of love that serves? Are we willing to trash the trivial matters that distract us and be the servant of all, loving with actions and in truth?
© Diane McLoud 2014