It’s human nature to want to be recognized for doing something good or important. People want to hear what a difference they’ve made in the world or even in the lives of a few around them. It shouldn’t surprise us when Christians, especially leaders among Christians want to be placed on a pedestal and recognized as someone important. When we have those desires we are in very definite company with some people in the New Testament, but not the ones we usually want to be with.
James and John were faithful apostles of the Lord. They were among the first ones chosen by him to be in that group of twelve. They were among the three that seemed to always have a special relationship with the Lord and were called upon to be with him when the other nine of the twelve were left outside or in the valley while Jesus took Peter, James and John and went up the mountain of transfiguration. When the time was close for the Lord to be crucified and to leave this world they recognized that something was about to happen. So they asked Jesus if they could have a favor from him. When he asked what the favor was they said, that we might set on your right hand and on your left when you come into your kingdom. They wanted the spots of greatest honor for anyone other than Jesus. He told them they didn’t know what they were asking. He said it wasn’t his to give but would be reserved for the ones for whom the Father had prepared it. The other nine apostles learned of what had happened and were frustrated that James and John had the audacity to ask such a question. Why did they think they were special?
Jesus told them that among the Gentiles those who were leaders exercised authority over others, but it wasn’t to be that way among the disciples. The greatest among you will be the servant of all. The one who wants to be first among you will be your slave. “For even the son of man did not come into this world to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many.”
Great servants of the Lord don’t sit on pedestals. They wash feet. They serve with a towel.
The apostle Paul was a great teacher, preacher and apostle, yet most of his letters start with “Paul the bond slave of Jesus Christ.” If Jesus was a servant it should our highest honor to be one with him. If men like Paul and Peter were servants and slaves of Jesus it ought to be our dream to be a slave like them.
When John wrote the little book of 3rd John he wrote to a friend named Gaius. He prayed for him to prosper and be in health as his soul prospered. He then warned him about a man who was part of the church with Gaius. His name was Diotrephes and he loved to have the preeminence among the people. When John had sent people to visit them with a message, Diotrephes threw them out of the church. John told Gaius that he did good by receiving those who were sent to him and to not follow a man like Diotrephes. He told there was a good man in the church there that he should follow. His name was Demetrius.
Most churches have people like the three men mentioned in 3rd John. There are some that want the spotlight so badly they will do about anything to get it. Others are good and godly servants ready to do whatever they can to help another and some are young in their faith and don’t know which way to turn.
To be a true disciple of Jesus isn’t to look for star status among God’s people. It is to serve. Jesus after washing the feet of his disciples said to them “I’ve left you an example that as I have washed your feet you ought to wash one another’s feet. If you know these things happy are you if you do them.” The line at the potluck table may be long. Too often the preacher is too near the front of the line. But the line at the foot washing stall is always short. You can take the towel and the washbowl anytime you are willing.