We don’t often express to God our secret motives of desiring greatness, grandeur, positions of influence and power, popularity and having greater rewards than others. People can often desires those things, but who among us has the courage or fool-hardiness to actually request in prayer something selfishly big for ourselves?
But that is exactly what James and John did in Mark 10:35-45. As they traveled, those 2 disciples came up to Jesus and just asked out right, “Rabbi, we want you to do something for us.” It was as if they wanted Him to say yes before He knew what they would ask. The Lord replied, “What do you want me to do for you?” Their request–“Grant to us, that we can sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
The disciples had already been given a lesson about self-grandeur previously, as seen in Mark 9, when Jesus corners them and asks them what they were discussing when on their way. Suddenly, they were embarrassed and silent, since they had actually been arguing about who was the greatest among them. It’s almost unbelievable. I can’t picture traveling with a bunch of men of God who would begin to do that. I can imagine men lovingly arguing with one another that the others are better preachers than them, but not the other way around. Arguing about who is the greatest! Amazing pride, how can it be? Yet it often is hidden in the heart. But with these disciples, it did not remain in the heart, but came out of their mouth in words of argument, trying to prove who was the greatest among them.
Illusions of grandeur? As someone has defined it, “An illusion is the state of being deceived. Grandeur is the quality of being impressive or awesome. Therefore, someone who has illusions of grandeur is deceiving themselves into thinking they are impressive or awesome in some way. In reality, no one else sees them in this way.” This was the case with these deceived disciples. Impressed with their own greatness, Jesus wasn’t.
In whatever way this applies to me and to you, certainly we are susceptible to being tempted to illusions of grandeur. Or at least, we can have desires for greatness floating around in our minds and hearts. The prophet Jeremiah asked the question, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.”
It is a wonderful and joyful thing for the Christian, and especially for any pastor, preacher or missionary, to be able to honestly say to himself and to the Lord—
I do not desire to be great in the eyes of men.
I do not desire an important position in the kingdom.
I do not desire for people to be impressed with me.
I do not desire to be known as a great preacher.
I do not want to know or be known by important people.
I am contented to never be known outside my small circle of family and church brethren.
I do not care about being better than others.
I am not seeking greater importance, popularity or position, but am seeking to love God and love others. I only want to be known by God Himself.
I have no one to impress or please, but only want to please Christ.
Can I pray these things when I am alone and really mean them? Desiring to be great before men reveals wrong hidden motives of self-grandeur and self-importance, which are always rooted in pride and self-love. No Christian can advance in the faith if such motives rule in their heart.
When Jesus sees my heart thinking about how much better I am than others, does he have to say to me, “What is it you were thinking last night?” He wants child-like humility, dependence, and a servant attitude in us that views ourself as the least of all. Because that is what we are.
– Mack Tomlinson