We live in an age of required compatibility.
The insatiable thirst we feverishly pursue is only ever momentarily quenched when we get the latest hardware and the latest software. Do not ignore the word 'momentarily'; technological equilibrium never lasts. With the latest upgrade comes that dreaded error message:
—Your device does not support this application—
There are just some things that won't go together, or, shouldn't go together. There are some things that are incompatible.
Reading through Mark's gospel account, this is the very point I believe Jesus is trying to make to his disciples as they grapple with concepts of the new kingdom that were completely 'left field' for them. Consider for a moment James and John. In an attempt to make their dad, Zebedee, proud—and possibly get their mother off their back—the two brothers attempt a bold grasp at power. We must remember here, that in the 1st Century Jewish mind (and often ours as well), position equals power.
So here's how the conversation went (see Mark 10:35-45):
"Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."
And [Jesus] said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?"
And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory."
Note what these two brothers desired, apart from Jesus to be their own personal genie!
James and John wanted power! Being close to Jesus was a means to an end. Being beside Jesus wasn't primarily about relational closeness—the right hand and left hand positions came with authority, power, and prestige.
But in the kingdom Jesus was ushering in, leadership and positional power were incompatible.
As the other disciples realise James and John have made such a bold request, they grow indignant. Now this wasn't the 'holy indignation' we seem to aspire to, this was the scorn of those who felt they'd missed their own shot at glory. Notice how Jesus responds:
“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If God has called you into a role of shepherding his people in the new kingdom, if you are called to take your place under the authority of the Great Shepherd himself and lead the people of God in any way, shape, or form—know this:
Power that comes through position is incompatible with God's agenda on earth.
Jesus says that you may see the old model operating in the world around you, but it should never have any place among the citizens of the new order. Not even Jesus—King of kings and Lord of lords—came to be served. Jesus knelt and served the scum of humanity, despised the shame, endured the cross, and gave his life a ransom for many.
Pastor—Shepherd—Elder—Small group leader—Ministry leader—Worship leader: Fall to your knees and take your place beside the Master. Root out any privileged bias that comes through positional entitlement. Humble yourself under the gracious hand of your God. Do this, and you will discover what God calls great, and that he is no man's debtor.
"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all."