By Ellen Ceely
“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 he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ And they said to him, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’” - Mark 10:35-40
Have you ever desired to be a “super Christian”? Maybe you’ve watched a Christian leader you admire and wished that you could be as impressive, brave, and famous as they are. There’s a quiet, sneaky lie that tends to permeate the church, a lie that tells us there’s a point in our faith when we will “arrive” at godliness. This lie of perfectionism makes us believe there will be a point in our lives when we will fully understand everything there is to know about Jesus and become the best Christian or reach the highest level of disciple.
But again: this is a lie. We are not meant to “arrive” in our relationship with Jesus. We are meant to grow as we continue to seek him and pick up our cross daily to follow in his footsteps.
James and John are near and dear to my heart. They say and ask for some of the most outlandish things. They’re so eager to be the best, know the most, and follow Jesus the closest. Their default in life seems to be, “Speak now, think later!” They remind me that even the apostles who walked with Jesus were not “perfect” disciples. That’s not why Jesus picked them in the first place.
James and John want glory and respect. They want to feel special and unique, better than the other disciples. They want Jesus to help them achieve what they imagine is the highest honor as his disciples: to sit on either side of him for all eternity! Jesus clearly and gently tells them that the point of being his disciples is not so that they might be glorified and “arrive” as his super followers. It’s just not the point.
Our relationship with Christ brings us into a loving, reconciled, and eternal relationship with God. Following Jesus is about giving glory to God, not getting glory for ourselves. We’re not meant to compete with one another. We’re not meant to “arrive” as any kind of super Christian. We’re meant to follow Jesus, and that includes drinking from the same cup of suffering and sacrifice. We are called to grow and mature in our faith, and we will never reach a point at which that’s no longer necessary.
Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve asked God for something without fully understanding what you were asking? How did that go? How did you seek God’s Word, and how did you pray? Take some time to reflect on how you saw God answer your request. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week small group Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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