The Nature of Power and the Power of Service

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”—Mark 10:41–44 (NIV)

Awkward . . .

Have you ever been trapped in a moment that made you want to crawl into a hole? Maybe you went in for a hug but all they wanted was a handshake. Or maybe you brought your mom to ask your boss for a promotion in front of all your coworkers. Awkward!

Today’s passage shows us how the disciples reacted to James and John’s questionable choice to have mommy ask Jesus for her sons to sit at His right and left hand, the positions of highest honor in a kingdom. And despite Jesus’ explanation that those seats have already been prepared and assigned, as you can imagine, the other 10 disciples weren’t happy with them. I imagine James and John coming back to the group and the other 10 are sitting there with their arms crossed, staring daggers at them. We’re told they were “indignant” (aganaktein), which means “angry; incensed.” They were filled with wrath and were very angry and resentful toward them. But then Jesus steps in and flips their understanding of authority, leadership, and influence on its head and once again reiterates the truth of what it means to follow Him and be part of His kingdom.

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them.” Basically, the way of the world is to seek position and status, to gain power, and then “lord it over” others. Jesus is essentially asserting that humanity’s inclination toward power contains within it the innate sinful tendency toward tyranny and abuse of power, to elevate self over others, and seek one’s own gain regardless of the method. But those in authority, in positions of influence in the kingdom, are to be wholly different. How so?

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” Do you see that? In the hierarchy of Christ’s kingdom, we’re not called to rule, but to serve according to the example of the Son of God and in accordance with and complete submission to the will of God. The Church is not to operate like the world! We aren’t called to be “leaders,” we’re servants—first of God and then of one another. We’re commanded as His disciples to deny ourselves and take up our cross, to die to self, to operate in humility and surrender to His will and work, to forsake our ambitions, lay down our sinful inclinations toward furthering the self, and sacrifice all for the cause and kingdom of Christ! This is true leadership; it’s the kind of example worth following because it points people to Jesus and shows people what it looks like to live and walk according to His good purposes!

Pause: What is the difference between worldly leadership and authority and kingdom authority?

Practice: True leadership in the kingdom is found in serving one another. So today, go out of your way to serve another believer.

Pray: Father, thank You for the example of true leadership as demonstrated by Jesus. Help me to walk to humility and surrender, to lay down my will, my agenda, and my ambition for the purpose of serving You, walking in Your purposes, and serving those You have placed in my life. Amen.

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.