When Worms Rule
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” – Mark 10: 35-37 (NRSV)
I love to eat fish, but I never much liked fishing. I was that kid who struggled putting the worm on the hook. I could think of a thousand other ways to spend the afternoon than sitting in a boat, lamenting my worm’s untimely demise.
Fishing, in Jesus’ time, was no picnic for more significant reasons. Rome controlled all waters and any resources collected from them. Fisherfolk like James and John, the sons of Zebedee, had to pay for the right to fish whether or not the fishing was successful. Heavy taxation, along with the costs of boats and nets, kept Galilean fishers at a subsistence level. In short, they were treated like dirt…or like worms.
With that in mind, James and John’s request for top positions in the “Jesus Christ in Glory Corporation” makes a little more sense. Jesus preached a dramatic reversal of fortunes and power. The worms of today would be world rulers of tomorrow. James and John wanted saved seats!
Jesus demurred. Such appointments were above his paygrade, he said. Besides that, James and John obviously needed a little more humility on their résumé.
The gospel is about leveling. It’s not only about the lowly being lifted. It’s also about the lofty being lowered until we are all in the same boat.
Thank you, leveling God, for making us more than worms and less than monarchs for the good of all.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.