And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come to him, saying, Master, we would that you should do for us whatever we shall desire.…
This was Christ's eternal principle, "the truest supremacy is the most faithful service to men." The view of Christianity which looks upon religion as an excellent way of "getting something," is, we trust, fast dying out. Christ removed the question of getting to the level of enduring and doing. The most irresistible power in the world is the power of unselfishness. Is self-sacrifice possible, when self-sacrifice is, in reality, self-gain? These two disciples proved to be, although they little expected it, perfect types of that of which our Lord was speaking. James was the first apostle to receive the crown of martyrdom. John's martyrdom was that of living; he was the last of the apostles to die. Learn the divineness of a life of service. "Whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all." The natural idea of the untutored mind is that a man in supreme power would rule and please himself. Qualifications for serving are becoming to be the badge of governing. What a world of thought we suddenly reach, when we strike the flint of one text with the steel of another text, and a Divine spark is emitted, which lights up our system with the Christ-like principle of the divinity of eternal usefulness! Is it not a part of that stupendous truth, that nothing can live eternally except that which is useful and good? All nature is teaching us this lesson; plants, and animals, and men, and nations, are disappearing and dying out unless they can give a favourable answer to the searching question, "Art thou useful? Art thou of any service to God or to man?" What a magnificent view this gives of man's magnificent share in the universe! The worlds are hastening along in their prescribed courses — suns are forming — spheres are whirling in ordered procession through space: in what we call the chaos of nature there is no chaos: seas, and continents, and air, and clouds, are daily growing up and evolving; every star, every leaf, every creature that lives is busy, and is helping to roll the Great Universe along — and nature, if asked, "Art thou useful?" must reply, "Yea, every grain and every molecule, every breath and every atom, all are contributing to the order and the usefulness of God's system!" What is nature? Nature is an aggregation and a development of the eternally fit and useful. So also man's test must be this test of fitness too, and we may even go farther, and declare our belief that prospective material rewards are sometimes misleading in the way they are usually interpreted. Man's highest reward must be perfect cooperation with, union with, and knowledge of the eternal God. When God's purposes become man's purposes, God's aims man's aims, God's spirit and essence man's spirit and essence; then we shall not find men clamouring for seats upon golden thrones, but we shall hear them ask, "How can I combine with God to further the purposes of man and of God?" for both these are identical. Or, to use our Saviour's phrase, we shall hear men ask, "How can I drink of the cup which Christ drank of?" The eternally useful need not, of course, be the eternally assertive or prominent. Many careers of usefulness there are, which are perhaps more of enduring than of acting. To endure, in many circumstances, is, in a sense, to act.
(A. H. Powell, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.