Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

1st Sunday after Shunoyo - the Festival of the Assumption

Leadership

by Rev. Fr. Sam Mathew

Gospel: St. Mark 10: 35-45

I was recently invited to a graduation ceremony of my church member's son. He was graduating from high school as the valedictorian. I arrived early enough to find a good seat. I knew if I did not get there early enough I would have to settle for the back row where I would not be able to see him. It is only human nature for us to want to sit in the best seat in the house. At a sporting event or shows, the places that have the best view carry the highest price as well. At any cost, everyone of us is in a race to get that best seat.

In the selected Gospel today, Mark 10, we read about the disciples James and John trying to get the "best seat". Jesus asks, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said to him, "Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left," They wanted the best seats in the kingdom - the places of honor and prestige and power. Jesus replied to them, "you do not know what you ask." He goes onto saying, that it is not His to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

Jesus asked James and John if they were able to drink the same cup and be baptized with the same baptism that he would. The cup is a metaphor for suffering in Isaiah 51 and baptism is the metaphor for being plunged into calamity in Psalm 42:7 and 69:1.

When Jesus asked this question of James and John, he was demonstrating to them that greatness is achieved through services. Jesus's death on the cross was the ultimate act of servanthood in history. That can never be repaid. He saved the world from all its sins. Jesus was expecting to hear them reply no, because no one would or could sacrifice themselves as he would. When they told Jesus that they were able to do what Jesus would, they demonstrated their prideful attitude that would hinder them from servant hood.

Let's look at some points defining what servant leadership is and what it is not.

First, the world's view of leadership is not Jesus's definition. The world today views power as leadership. When Israel tried to choose a king over Samuel, they wanted to win and be a strong nation. They did not know what servant leadership was. Jesus' reply to James and John was probably based on the fact that one day they would become one of the church leaders along with Peter after Jesus' death. James and Peter would be the leader of the Jewish Christians, while Paul would be the leader of the Gentile Christians. James discriminated against the Gentiles with his power, as it is reflected in Galatians 2:11-12.

Secondly, service is the measure of Christian leadership. Christian leaders need to be servants in order to become great. The last shall be first, and the first shall be the last. If you are humble and a servant, the Lord will be pleased. If you are servant, there will also be greatness in one's work for the kingdom. We all need to be servants to those around us. Martin Luther King, Jr once said, that everyone can become great because anyone can serve. He said, you don't have to have a college degree to serve, or understand the complex theories of physics, or relativity. All you need is a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.

Third point is that servant leadership is modeled after Jesus' behavior. Jesus uses himself and his own acts of service as an example for others to follow. Whenever we desire to understand servant leadership, we can turn to Jesus for advice. The greatest example of this is demonstrated in John 13. Jesus knew that he had all the power of the universe in his hands, but he did not use the power to inflict control over his disciples.

He instead got up and washed his disciples' feet . Jesus says, " I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done for you." Jesus exemplified servant leadership, and we should follow his model.

Servant leaders should lead out of relationships, not by coercion. Servants lead by support, not by control. Servants lead by developing others, not by doing all the ministry themselves. Servants guide people, not drive them.

Servants lead from love, not domination. Servants seek growth, not POSITION.

May god bless all of you and allow all of us to become good servants for him.

See Also:

Sermons and Bible Commentary/Analysis for the 1st sunday after Shunoyo

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