Ben was a football coach in the local junior high school. He was always able to put successful teams together. On one particular occasion, his team was playing a game that he really needed to win. But in the second quarter his best player got hurt. The boy still wanted to play—-he said he was alright, and Ben really wanted this win, so he sent the kid back in. He let the boy play a set of downs, and then suddenly though, “What am I doing? This kid might have a concussion! I’m playing around with the rest of his life. Ben called the boy’s father out of the stands and told him that his son should be taken to the emergency room and checked out.
The game was lost in the last quarter.
When Ben retired, many of his former players showed up at the retirement dinner. His assistant coach, Dan, was the final speaker. He told the people there that Ben was a great coach who taught young people the fundamentals of life—the values that were important. Then Dan said, “The moment I knew we had a quality coach was when Ben, concerned that one of his players might have had an injury that could lead to something more serious, took that boy out of the game and had him taken to the hospital. The lost game didn’t matter. That’s when I realized Ben knew what was important in life. It wasn’t about wins. Ben’s faith helped him overcome the world’s desire for success.”
Dan concluded, “This is a Christian man who knows that people are way more important than wins. And I am sure God looks at it the same way.”
Today we see the Apostles, James and John approach Jesus and ask a kind of pushy question. They thought it was all about being rewarded by God. At this point in their faith journey, they are still not understanding why Christ became one of us. They were hoping that they would be powerful princes in Jesus’ newly established kingdom. But Christ points out that the ones who were great were the ones who were willing to serve the rest, not the ones who got the applause. Being part of the Kingdom involves, not seeking popularity and success, but rather, doing what is best for the other person. That’s something we all should remind ourselves from time to time. Greatness lies in self-sacrifice and being willing to serve others. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve.
Eventually the Apostles would learn the meaning of the cross in their lives. They would move from being focused on the “rewards” to being willing to give of themselves for the sake of the Gospel—-even to the point of death. And the same thing happens in our own life. We come to a gradual understanding of what Christ is really asking of us. We learn to depend on Christ and to do his will. We learn to ask the right question, not “What’s in it for me?” But, “What is being asked of me?”