We see in the desire of James and John something unbecoming a true disciple. A disciple’s reward is doing what his Master tells him to do, not seeking to gain favors from him! It is no wonder that the other disciples become incensed when they find out about the request of James and John! However, Jesus, in his infinite wisdom is able to defuse the situation by refusing to entertain the brothers’ request and secondly by using the incident and response of the others as the basis for a teaching.

Jesus assures them all that anyone who desires to be first must willingly place oneself last! What does this mean? The desire for honors is the desire for leadership and attention. Jesus tells the disciples that leadership comes with a cost, one that is probably initially surprising to the group. Leadership is all about service when it comes to the Kingdom of God. The disciples will come to understand this much better after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus’ response to James and John is to question their willingness to serve and thus lay down their lives. If I was one of the brothers I think I would be feeling fairly ashamed with what I had done at this point. By expressing their desire for favors the brothers are ultimately saying that they deserve better than the rest, perhaps even setting themselves up over the others in their own eyes. Jesus will not follow their line of reasoning and comes back to the crucial question: it is not at all a matter of what someone deserves (because we all deserve to be judged and condemned for our sins), but how fully a person is willing to serve his brother or sister. This is what the Kingdom of God is all about, laying down one’s live in the service of the people of God. James will do this in the ultimate manner when he is martyred for the sake of the Gospel.

As we seek to find our own places within the plan of God for everything, we can be pretty sure that it will contain some very difficult sacrifices.

How serious am I in trying to discover God’s will for my life? Do I try hard enough to achieve this goal?

Jesus, you have revealed to us the love of God our Father. Help us to always put first his plan for the salvation of all in our lives.