James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Many will say that the “Sons of Thunder” asked Jesus this bold request out of pride. I believe it was out of fear. Just before Mark 10:35, Scripture tells us that Jesus revealed to the disciples for the third time that He was to die. Maybe it was the fear of losing their connection to Jesus that led James and John to ask for confirmation that they would be forever linked. Maybe it was the fear of losing that passion, that sense of purpose, that they felt so fervently as they walked, sat, learned, and ministered alongside Jesus. Maybe they just wanted to know that they had truly achieved good in this world. I’m sure at times we want these affirmations as well.
However, in a moment of tough love, Jesus reminds the brothers that trust is greater than any assurance of success. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have the game-winning formation. We, then, are called to be faithful teammates. It is not our titles, our programs, or our resumes that build the Kingdom of God—it is our spirit of service and trust that makes us co-builders. If we orient ourselves to this greater purpose, neither pride nor fear will dilute our work.
The biggest blunder that exists in the request from the brothers was that they asked to be separated—elevated—from the other disciples. I believe this is why Jesus called them all together and told them, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus wanted to re-establish trust among the disciples. I have felt this trust in my involvement with the Jesuit Anti-Racist Solidaity. When oftentimes spaces for diversity, inclusion, and equity end up being performative, this group has been a healthy haven for my existence. We listen fully and intently to our personal and professional desolations and consolations. We give to and ask mercy of one another. We plan jointly and intentionally. In our moments of pride and/or fear, we remind each other that the hard and deliberate work of racial justice is best done in community. A community that trusts. I pray that your work, whatever it may be, is full of trust.
Justin T. White is a middle school counselor, admissions associate, and clubs and activities coordinator at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland.