“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ’Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you… And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.” Mark 10:35, 41
Read Mark 10:35 by itself. Consider how twisted their request in v. 35 is. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Not even considering what they asked in v. 37, let’s think about a few things.
James and John have developed a comfort level with Jesus that leads them to boldly believe they can request almost anything of Jesus. They have spent hours of time with Jesus. They have seen him work miracles. They have begun to understand the reason for why Jesus has come. They have heard him teach. They have faith in his power. The comfort level that they have with Jesus is the same you might have with a friend or family member while hanging out and watching a movie. When your friend gets up to do something, you ask them to get you a glass of water while they are up. James and John are comfortable with Jesus.
Second, they know that Jesus cares deeply for them. They have come to learn that while Jesus loves the little children and the weak and sick, Jesus deeply cares for his twelve. In fact, Jesus spent more time with Peter, James, and John than the other disciples. So they are close with Jesus. They are confident in his love and confident in Jesus’ compassion toward them.
Yet interestingly, their confidence, comfort, and knowledge of Jesus and his love caused them to treat Jesus like he is a blue cartoonish version of Robin Williams. Of course, I’m referring to the genie in the bottle in the Disney movie, “Aladdin.” Their comfort and confidence lead them to ask Jesus to do whatever they ask of him. Jesus is of course patient with them, but I can imagine that their self-centeredness irked Jesus a bit.
How is Jesus your genie in a bottle? How has your confidence in Jesus’ power and your knowledge of Jesus’ love for you led you to view Jesus as your divine Santa?
Yet the most concerning aspect of James and John’s request isn’t in seeing Jesus as their genie as much as it is their actual request. They considered themselves better than others, they looked to their own interests and not the interests of others; they were proud, and they were filled with selfish ambition. They were the opposite of Christ’s example of humility seen in Philippians 2:1-11.
Jesus taught true greatness when he said that those who are “great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44). But not only did Jesus teach true greatness, he lived it by dying on the cross and then being given “the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). May we see, above all things, that Jesus is greater!