Have you ever tried to position yourself to be noticed by others? “Maybe, they’ll see that I have the goods and I’ll finally get some recognition. I’m tired of these menial tasks and always being in the shadows.”  Sometimes we scheme, plot and connive, thinking: “Maybe this will be my stepping-stone to greatness. If the truth were known, I am under-rated. I really do have a lot to offer.”

Of course, we don’t have those exact thoughts; but, deep within us, there’s a longing to be recognized. We know it’s not socially palatable or spiritually acceptable to speak of position, power and greatness for ourselves.  So, we avoid those terms and convince ourselves that our motives are pure, and our intentions are honourable. We can even fake humility and protest mildly when we do get some recognition.

How in the world did the sons of Zebedee ever rationalize in their minds the appropriateness of asking Jesus to make sure they would both get to sit on either side of Him in His future day of Glory?  But, somehow, to them it seemed perfectly legitimate to make such a request. We don’t even read of them having a red-face or grasping for suitable words to ask their audacious question.

Just think of the backdrop for their bold request: no sooner had Jesus finished describing the scourging, the spitting, the mocking, the nails and the shameful, humiliating and painful death awaiting Him – when James and John popped the question.

Eugene Peterson paraphrased Mark 10:35-41 like this:

 “James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.”

“What is it? I’ll see what I can do.”

“Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory–one of us at your right, the other at your left.”

Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?”

“Sure,” they said. “Why not?” Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”

Pride and the promotion of self are despicable to the Lord. It is one of those dark, nasty traits of our wicked flesh.  James and John were unabashedly bold with their proposal for greatness. Many of us go about it in much more subtle ways. But the bottom line is still the same: “See me!”

Haven’t you observed someone who seems anxious to always have their say in a conversational Bible Study or in a living-room discussion? Have you ever noticed someone rushing up to a Bible Teacher after he finishes his sermon to ask some scholarly questions or to share something he failed to mention? Of course, motives could be pure – but, we need to always be brutally hard on judging our true motives. Do I really have to say everything I know about a verse or a chapter or should I spend more time listening?

Sadly, one of the weaknesses of our wicked flesh, is we look for opportunities to be noticed or ways to impress others. It’s shameful but true – our Bibles can become tools to promote ourselves.

The Lord Jesus closed the scene with Zebedee’s sons with these words:

 …whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-45 NASB

Philippians 2:1-11 is one of the classic Scriptures detailing the mind we should have in relation to ourselves and others and the way we should behave. Christ is the supreme example.

Check-out this poem and see if you think it contains at least one or two kernels of wisdom:

It is good to know, and to know you know
But you must keep low with your know, you know.
For unless you’ve grown with your know, you know
The crowd will lay you low, you know.

It is not enough to show you know
But you must carry weight with your know, you know.
This weight is experience added to your know
Which commands attention to your vocal flow.

So, with all your know you must keep low
For the way to the top is down, you know.
The humble soul will be very slow,
And sometimes embarrassed to show they know.

But nothing can hinder the upward flow
Of praise for the one who has the know
Provided it’s not on display for show! –
For the crowd will be quick to lay you low
If they detect in your speech you know
That you’re proud of the fact that you know you know.
– G.A.R.

“Lord make me more aware of the treachery of my own flesh. Help me to be ruthlessly brutal in judging myself when it comes to pride or self-promotion. May I nip-it-in-the-bud and crush it when it arises in my heart. My prayer today is that others would not be wowed by me but rather see Christ through me.

Walk carefully and closely with the Lord today.

Warmly in Christ
Peter Ramsay

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