Nothing of this sort
As they go up to Jerusalem, Jesus keeps announcing to his disciples the sad fate awaiting him in the capital. The disciples do not understand him. They go on arguing for the first places. James and John, disciples since the first hour, approach him to ask him point blank that they sit “one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus looks disheartened: “You do not know what you are asking.” No one in the group seems to understand that to follow him closely as partners in his project will always be a way, not of power and greatness, but of sacrifice and the cross.
The ten, meanwhile, knowing of the audacity of James and John, are indignant. The group seems more troubled than ever. Ambition is dividing them. Jesus calls all of them together to make clear his thinking.
First of all, he explains what happens among the people under the Roman Empire. Everybody knows of the abuses committed by Antipas and the Herodian family in Galilee. Jesus summarizes it thus: Those who are recognized as rulers use their power to tyrannize the people, and the great ones do not do anything but oppress their subjects. Jesus cannot be any more categorical: “It shall not be so among you.”
He does not want to see among his own something similar: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” There is no place in his community for power that oppresses, only for service that helps. He does want rulers seated at his right and left, but only servants like him who give their lives for the rest.
Jesus makes things clear. His Church is not built from imposition on the part of those who are above, but rather from the service of those who put themselves below. It does not fit in it any hierarchy that is characterized by honor or domination. Nor is there room there for either methods or strategies of power. It is service which builds up the Christian community.
Jesus gives so much importance to what he is saying that he sets himself up as an example, for he has not come to the world to demand that they serve him, but rather “to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus does not teach anyone to triumph in the Church, but to be of service to the project of the kingdom of God, to be as solicitous as to be willing to do anything, to die, for the weakest and neediest.
Jesus’ teaching is not only for rulers. Coming from varying walks of life, from our different tasks and duties, we have to commit ourselves to live with greater dedication to the service of his project. We do not need in the Church imitators of James and John, but rather faithful followers of Jesus. Let them work and partner with others, those who think themselves important.