James and John have learnt from the teachings of Jesus that wealth and family aren’t as important as eternal life. So what’s left? The sons of Zebedee want power. The other apostles became angry, not because of what James and John asked for, but because they asked first. Jesus admits that what they seek is not even his to give. And, not wanting to waste a teaching-moment he goes on to say that true greatness, true leadership is found in service.
Political patronage is a double edged sword. On the one hand, many politicians want the power to appoint their friends to plum government jobs. On the other hand, for as many people a politician appoints there are ten who think they should have been hired first. Power of any sort is fraught with hidden dangers. If I had the power to control the weather the rain that blesses the farmer’s field ruins the child’s birthday party. The power that James, John and the other apostles covet is best left to God.
It is enough for us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to serve the One with all the power, the One who creates, saves and sustains. And by serving God we serve what God loves and values and that is all of creation and every created thing. No person is beyond God’s love. The Church, at its finest moments, is a Church that serves the needs of all creation, standing apart, being different from the world’s expectation, sometimes from our own expectations.
To drink from the cup that Jesus drank, to be baptized with the baptism of Jesus is not for the gain or for the loss, but for the joy of serving the One who created us all.