When James and John ask to be ranked first and second among the Apostles, we are told that the other disciples become indignant.
Indignance is the feeling or showing of anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment.
Why are they so upset? Each one, in his own thoughts, is probably saying to himself that he should be ranked first. In essence, the Apostles are competing for Jesus’ attention.
They want to be loved more than the others. They want to be ranked higher than the others.
You know we sometimes play that same scenario in our heads. My boss doesn’t realize my potential, and if she just paid more attention to me, she would certainly realize that I am more capable than the others.
Why does my brother constantly get treated better than me? I want to be my parents’ favorite. This spirit of competition certainly sets us up for trouble and jealousy and hurt feelings.
While the disciples get upset and allow indignation and jealousy to consume them, please note that Jesus does not get upset.
He simply tells James and John that they are not really aware of the implications of their request.
Jesus may be able to grant some of the request, but some of the request is simply not his to grant. To sit at my right and my left is not mine to give.
Then he challenges them to grow. You are not in a competition to see who is the greatest. It shall not be that way among my disciples.
Jesus wants them to understand that they are not competing for his attention. They are not competing for Jesus’ love. They are not competing so that they can be ranked from greatest to least.
Jesus loves them all the same. Jesus loved Peter and James and John even when they messed everything up. Jesus loved the rich young man who walked away sad.
Jesus loves you and me even when our hearts are filled with jealousy and envy and pride. But Jesus also challenges us to grow.
Whoever wishes to be great must lead a life of service. Whoever wishes to be great must go about doing good for others. Service is absolutely necessary to be a disciple.
James and John asked for places of honor among the Apostles. They were told that the places of honor are reserved for those who serve.