Imagine you’re the head of the Purdue Alumni Association and you have two promising, Purdue graduates you’re mentoring. You’ve introduced them to Purdue’s President Mitch Daniels. You’ve taken them to football games at Ross-Ade Stadium and basketball games at Mackay Arena. You’ve introduced them to famous Purdue alumni like basketball star Rick Mount and Super Bowl 44’s winning quarterback Drew Brees. You’ve taught your understudies everything about how to bleed gold and black. Now, imagine them coming to you for a favor. “Sure,” you say; “what can I do for you?”
“Could get us an autograph from Bob Knight.”
That sinking “Are you kidding me?” feeling must’ve been how Jesus felt when James and John said: “When your Kingdom comes, Jesus, we want to be your wingmen, enthroned in power at your side.”
Jesus has spent three years teaching, modeling, and discipling them about the power of love, but James and John are still fixated on the love of power. As are we.
We all want what we want. And with our ego enthroned at the center of our lives, we want everything to revolve around us. As it should! After all, I am the captain of my ship. That’s what the world tells me. I am the master of our own fate. But the Bible reminds us that we have a different Master. Scripture says our ultimate fulfillment is not to be found by exalting the false trinity of me, myself, and I, but by offering ourselves to follow the humble way of a crucified Carpenter, who says: “Take up your cross and follow me. Love your enemies. Pray for those who abuse you. Give to anyone who begs from you. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Tend the sick. Love everyone as I love you.” And you just can’t do that if all you’re doing is looking out for Number One.
If you’re “in it to win it,” then you’ve got some growing to do if you want to be with Jesus. If you really want to be first in what matters most, which is the Kingdom of God, then put yourself last. Serve your neighbors — especially those who are least, last, and lost. Give yourself away in love, then you’ll really win. Move from selfishness toward selflessness, and you’ll find a whole new way of living; one that is filled with generosity, humility, forgiveness, peace, and love.
We’re hearing a lot lately about ransomware. Ransomware is malware designed to encrypt files. Ransomware captures files and strangles systems so that your device won’t serve its original function. The malicious actors who have infected you then demand ransom in exchange for decryption. Pay up; then you’ll be free.
Jesus tells James and John, “Humbling myself to serve and save: That’s what I’m here for. The Son of Man, Humanity’s Child, isn’t here to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In other words, everything that’s wrong out there (pointing beyond the Sanctuary) and in here (pointing to my heart) is because we have some malicious code that has corrupted and captured us. Selfishness, anger, despair, greed, vengeance, prejudice — all that crud has fouled our hard drive. The way to be free of all that, says the Bible, is Jesus and his way of love. His saving code, fully revealed and released on the cross, ransoms, restores, and releases us so that we’re free/liberated/saved so we can function as originally intended by our Creator: To be fully alive in love with God, neighbors, and creation.
When you get Jesus’ saving code running on your hard drive; clearing out the other crud in our hearts, that’s when you’re really on track, alive, and becoming who God created you to be.
Martin Luther King famously said, “Anyone can be great because everyone can serve.” It’s true. When we stop praying for “MY kingdom come” and start living for “THY kingdom come,” then we’re in sync with our Savior and we are tapped into the best life of all.
That James and John impulse for power, privilege, prestige, and position? It’s always with us. But so, too, is the divine urging of the Holy Spirit who helps us get the Christ code, the Jesus rules, the saving software in our hearts, relationships, lives, communities, and world. That’s the wonderful, saving, glad life, which is now ours thanks to Jesus Christ, who makes the way plain and the future bright for us all.