Mark 10:35-45 | 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Leading with a Servant’s Heart
Most principals only came into my classroom wielding their pen and notepad to make the required observations. Their presence struck fear in both me and in the students. But Mrs. Washington was different. She came in to get to know the kids and to participate in the activity. She wasn’t judging. As my partner, she probably learned far more about my teaching style and skills that way than in any of the official observations she also had to do. Her way wasn’t the easiest—her workdays probably ran pretty late. But she truly served the kids and teachers in her care.
Leadership doesn’t require a servant’s heart, but it is made holy by one.
Jesus wanted His disciples to see that being His kind of leader wasn’t all glory and power. But the disciples, like us, were mired in their worldly perspective. They were faithful Jews and believed that Jesus was the Messiah who had come to do exactly what the Jews thought the Messiah would do—earn their people’s place atop the ancient food chain. So, while James and John took in all of Jesus’s teachings, they didn’t grasp His full meaning. After seeing Jesus’s miracles and hearing His teachings, James and John thought they understood Jesus’s power, and they not only wanted to follow Him but they also wanted to be a part of His glory. So they asked to be the ones to sit and His left and right.
Jesus had a true servant’s heart. He could have remained in on high in heaven with His Father, but He came down to earth to get dirty with us. It was the only way we would ever be able to truly understand. But until Jesus had lived His whole life, His disciples wouldn’t fully understand. As humans, they couldn’t. Jesus responded to James and John, “You do not know what you are asking” (v. 38). They absolutely believed in Jesus, but they didn’t understand the fullness of that belief.
We are the same.
We profess a belief in Jesus Christ, but even though we do know the specifics of His death, we don’t truly understand His concept of a servant leader. We want the comfort the Father gives and we want to be perceived as “right” in the eyes of the world. In short, as humans, we want the good aspects of being a leader without understanding that comfort the Father gives doesn’t take away the pain and hard stuff—it’s in the midst of it. A Jesus-kind of leader has to learn to live in the midst of more problems than ever with joy.
I can’t say Mrs. Washington “cured” my most challenging students, but I knew she was right there in the midst of it helping me find a way through to them. Just as I felt we were a team working to elevate the kids, Jesus wants us to be on His team and work with Him to elevate all of humanity. Then everybody will, though nobody will feel the need to, sit at His right and His left.