Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him 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.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”Mark 10:35-45
The ever-fiery James and John were at it again. From calling fire down like Elijah to claiming the highest seats in heaven, the sons of Zebedee exuded entitlement and superiority. Their attitude stirred up resentment among the disciples.
Jesus never sought power and position, but served all of God’s children with self-forgetting love. The flowers of the field expressed his heart more eloquently than words:
Both lily and rose are beloved of the King.
Daisy and violet charm his meadow in spring.
The rose does not preen at her own beauty nor crane her neck with superiority. She glorifies God with her color and fragrance alongside all the other flowers in the garden.
“If every flower wanted to be a rose, nature would lose her springtime beauty,” wrote St. Therese of Lisieux. “The splendour of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.”
The Chinese jurist, philosopher, and convert to the Catholic faith, Dr. John C.H. Wu, found deep affinities between the “Little Flower” St. Therese and Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese sage.
Concerning kingly leadership, Lao Tzu wrote:
How does the sea become the king of all streams?
Because it lies lower than they!
Hence it is the king of all streams.
Therefore, the Sage reigns over the people by humbling himself in speech;
And leads the people by putting himself behind.
Thus it is that when a Sage stands above the people,
they do not feel the heaviness of his weight;
And when he stands in front of the people,
they do not feel hurt.
Therefore all the world is glad to push him forward without getting tired of him.
Just because he strives with nobody,Tao Te Ching, Chapter 66, translated by John C.H. Wu
Nobody can ever strive with him.
Jesus, the Little Flower, and Lao Tzu all point us downstream where self-emptying love flows into the divine wellspring.