“Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” Mark 10:35
In 2021, an engineer with the ambition to shoot an arrow farther than anyone in history took aim at the record of 2,028 feet. While lying on his back on a salt flat, he drew back the bowstring of his personally designed foot bow and prepared to launch the projectile to what he hoped would be a new record distance of more than a mile (5,280 feet). Taking a deep breath, he let the arrow fly. It didn’t travel a mile. In fact, it traveled less than a foot—launching into his foot and causing considerable damage. Ouch!
Sometimes we can figuratively shoot ourselves in the foot with misguided ambition. James and John knew what it meant to ambitiously seek something good, but for the wrong reasons. They asked Jesus to “let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mark 10:37). Jesus had told the disciples they would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28), so it’s easy to see why they made this request. The problem? They were selfishly seeking their own lofty position and power in Christ’s glory. Jesus told them that their ambition was misplaced (Mark 10:38) and that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (v. 43).
As we aim to do good and great things for Christ, may we seek His wisdom and direction—humbly serving others as He did so well (v. 45).
Why can ambition be both good and bad? How can we make it our ambition to serve like Jesus?
Jesus, I desire to do great things for You, but for the right reasons.
James and John might seem shockingly presumptuous in their request for positions of prominence in Jesus’ coming messianic kingdom (Mark 10:35–37). But perhaps we should be more understanding. Jesus had recently told them, “When the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). Their misguided request took place soon after that statement. Christ corrected them, “You don’t know what you are asking” (Mark 10:38). Then He referred to a cup and a baptism (v. 38), symbols that represent not prestige but suffering. Jesus would drink the cup of God’s wrath by enduring crucifixion. The disciples would later face persecution as well.