Posted by: duncandrews | April 11, 2009

So, you want to be great? I

Last Sunday while I was on college mission, Des, a friend in 4th year, gave a fantastic sermon on Mark 10:35-45. It’s a disturbing passage that overturns all our ideas of greatness. A few years ago I wrote an article based on the same passage for the EU Grads Fund newsletter, and thought I’d share it here.


Simon Peter was, in a word, furious. And not only him – the rest shared his indignation at the impudence of the two Boanerges brothers . “Sons of Thunder!” he snorted under his breath. “Their nickname’s given them a swollen head!”

The small town on the outskirts of Jericho was actually quite pleasant this time of year – the fig trees were in fruit, the sunny sky a brilliant blue, and a nice cool breeze was blowing from the West. But Peter seemed not to notice any of this as he stalked the pathway back to the two-star motel Jesus had booked them into, the sting of James and John’s request still fresh in his mind.

Perhaps I need to explain. The day had started innocently enough – Peter, along with some of the others, had decided to go for a drive to check out the local countryside. There was a small winery about 5 k’s out of town he had been told about, and besides, he felt he needed to get out of town, away from every day troubles and just relax. And so he climbed into his second-hand station wagon along with Andrew, Philip and Thomas, and set out.

It was, as it turns out, quite a nice morning. Good wine, ripe olives, along with some freshly baked bread. Pleasant enough. Pleasant, that is, until Andrew filled him in, over a nice lunch, about what those Boanerges had gone and done now.

Andrew was of course just ‘sharing prayer points’. “You might like to pray for James and John,” he snuck with no great amount of tact into their conversation about modern fishing techniques. Peter, taking the bait, gave a concerned, interested look, and let out an inquiring “Hmmm?”

“So you haven’t heard, huh?” Andrew prodded. “Man, I can’t believe their nerve. Apparently, they went up to the Teacher, and asked him… Not just them, actually – their Mum was there as well. I bet she put them up to it… Where was I? Yes, they asked Jesus if they could sit, one on his right and one on his left in his Kingdom! They’ve always thought they were better than the rest of us, but to waltz up and ask to be the vice-Presidents…!”

By this time, Andrew was visibly angry. After a few moments, he calmed down and said “All the others know. I don’t know what we’re going to do. I think I’ll try to get a moment with the Teacher to talk it over with him.”

And so, after an uncomfortable car trip back to the motel, as he walked up the path to his room, Simon Peter didn’t know what hurt more – the fact that his friends John and James thought they were better than he was, or that he was the last one to know.

When he got to his room he found a note on his bed. “Come to my room as soon as you get back” it read, signed ‘Jesus’. He knew. Obviously he knew, and was going to sort it all out.

Well, Peter didn’t go as soon as he got back – he brewed himself some tea (to calm his nerves), put on some clean clothes (a thimble of wine had been knocked onto his tunic earlier in the day), and walked as casually as he could manage, pretending it was no big deal, down to Jesus’ room. As he opened the door to find the Teacher and the other eleven already there, he wondered what Jesus would say to these upstart brothers who thought they were a cut above, thought they were, or at least desired to be, impressive, important, great.

Series so far: iii


  1. […] so far: i, […]

  2. […] so far: i, ii, iii Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)New Link in the RollWant a Preview of […]

  3. […] so far: i, ii, […]

  4. Thanks Dunc…I remember this burning issue – it was great.

  5. Thanks Matt – I’ve come back to it after a few years and it’s struck me again how significant the issue is – and how easily I fall into shallow un-cruciform ideas of greatness and ambition.

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