Ye know not know what ye ask!
According to St Mark; Chapter10 Verse 35; James and John made a specific request of the master, they had dreamed as most of the Hebrews dreamt of the coming King of Israel who would set Jerusalem free and establish his kingdom on Mount Zion and in righteousness, rule the world. They thought of Jesus as this kind of King and they were thinking of that day when Jesus would reign supreme as this new King of Israel and they were saying “ when you establish your Kingdom let one of us sit on the right and the other on the left hand of your throne.
Now very quickly, we would automatically condemn James and John and we would say they were selfish, why they would make such a selfish request. But before we condemn them too quickly, let us look calmly and honestly at ourselves today and we will discover that we too have those basic desires for recognition, that same desire for attention, that same desire to be first. Of course the other disciples got mad at James and John but we must understand that we have the same James and John qualities; deep down within all of us - an instinct - a desire to be upfront, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first and it is something that runs the whole garment of life for all humanity and so before we condemn them, let us see that we all have the same instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to lead the parade. This quest for recognition, this desire for attention, this desire for distinction is the basic impulse, the basic drive of human life.
We began early to ask life to put us first – our first cry as a baby was a bid for attention. In adult life, we still have it and we really never get by it, we like to do something good and we like to be praised for it and if you don’t believe that, you just go on living life and you will discover very soon that you like to be praised. Somehow this warm glow we feel when we are praised or when our name is in print is sort of like a vitamin A to our ego. Nobody is unhappy when they are praised, even if they know they don’t deserve it and even if they don’t believe it.
The inherent presence of this instinct within all of us explains why we are so often taken by advertisements, those gentlemen and ladies of massive verbal persuasion who have a way of saying things that in turn get us in the bind. Sort of like - in order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whisky; in order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this kind of car; in order to be lovely to love, you must wear this kind of perfume - and before we know it, we are just buying that stuff?!
I got an email the other day, I opened it up and it read;
“Dear Ger, you are a hard worker, progressive and an asset to us as an Organization” After that kind of start, of course I wanted to continue reading the rest of the email – after those graceful words explaining me so exactly, of course I wanted to read to its entirety.
If this instinct is not harnessed, it causes one’s personality to become distorted. You will end up trying to push others down to get yourself up. This uncontrolled aspect leads to exclusivism and this is the danger of social clubs and fraternities. That can happen even in the church where I once heard a preacher say; amidst us today we have Doctors, Businessmen, Teachers and Lawyers. He said it as if the rest of the congregation seldom counted or existed. The church is the one place that the Doctor ought to forget that he is a Doctor; it is the one place that the PhD ought to forget that he is a PhD and the lawyer, that he studied law.
It does not stop in the church, it goes into the struggles between nations and I will submit that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter colossal contest for supremacy and if something does not happen to stop this trend, am sorely afraid that we won’t be here to talk about brotherhood too many more years because nations are caught up in this instinct as well.
What was the answer that Jesus gave to James and John? One would have thought that Jesus would have said, you were out of your place, you were selfish, why would raise such a question? But that is not what Jesus said. He said, “You want to be great? You want to be important? You want to be significant”? You must be, but he reordered priorities and said, don’t give up this instinct, it’s a good instinct if you use it right, keep feeling the need for importance and love. I want you to be first in moral excellence; I want you to be first in generosity; that is what I want you to do.
Jesus said, brethren I can’t give you greatness and I can’t make you first. True greatness comes not by favoritism but by fitness. The right hand or the left are not mine for the giving, they belong to those who are prepared. Recognize that he who is greatest amongst you, shall be the servant. Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. I portend that don’t have to have a University Degree to serve, you don’t have to know about Einstein’s theory of relatively to serve, and you don’t have to know the theory of aerodynamics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace generated by love and you can be that servant.
Every now and then I think about that day when the human folk is victimized by that common denominator; that something that we call death - We all think about it - and every now and then I think about my own death, I think about my own funeral but I don’t think about it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I think about what I would want to be said when I have to meet my death. All of the other shallow things will not matter, I will not have any money to leave behind, I won’t have the luxurious things of life to leave behind but I just want to leave a committed life behind. If I can help somebody, show somebody who is travelling wrong the right way, if can do my duty as a Christian then my living will not be in vain. I want to be on your right or left hand side as commitment so that 1 can make my contribution to humanity, a new one at that.