Given that Andrew, one of four brothers, was never invited to the super special Jesus things that the other three saw in living color, it's not so difficult to imagine how we come to see James and John, two brothers who were always invited, arguing about which one of them was greater.
After all, they've both already beaten out nine other disciples; all that's left standing for the "greatest of all time" is themselves and Peter.
It's not hard to picture James and John looking around at the ragtag group traveling with Jesus and thinking to themselves, yeah. We're clearly the pick of this litter. Clearly the bumper of this crop. Clearly the tops here. Then all that's left is for brothers to do what brothers do and fight it out amongst themselves.
I wonder what impact Andrew would have made on Peter's discipleship if there'd been four invited along instead of three.
But maybe that's neither here nor there.
What we have for sure, though, is James and John, the Sons of Thunder, for whom being the greatest not only seems commendable, it seems attainable. They're almost there. You can tell from their conversations, though, and from the way their discipleship plays out that they probably spend more of their time looking at each other and less of it looking at Jesus, particularly as they get deeper and deeper toward Jerusalem.
Because Jesus? He's doing His thing. But the Sons of Thunder, they're doing their thing, and their thing is good ol' fashioned sibling rivalry, which extends now not just to one another but to their newest brothers, the ten. And at a lot of points, you can read in the Gospels and see clearly just how much they're missing because they're looking in the wrong place.
For example, there's a scene where their mom steps in and asks for each one of them to sit at Jesus's right and left in the Kingdom when it comes. Now, anyone who is a mother or has a mother knows that this mother has probably heard enough of the bickering about being the greatest and is probably just trying to put a stop to it. Cutting the candy bar in half. Drawing a line down the center of the room. You both get to be next to Jesus; can you stop it now? Please?
And if it's true that this mother is hearing overwhelmingly her sons talk about which one of them is greater than the other, you can bet she's not hearing much about the greatness of Jesus. Not from them.
The very same is our temptation today.
A lot of us spend our time knowing we're on the inside with Jesus. We know He's invited us along for some of the most amazing things He's doing in our world, and we're happy to be there. But for many, it doesn't take long before they spend more of their time looking at the brothers next to them and less of their time looking at Jesus, doing all that they can to make sure that their name is the greatest. That their fame is more renown. That when this all shakes out, they are the ones who are going to come out on top.
And all of a sudden, the persons in our lives who ought to be hearing about Jesus from us are, well, not. They're hearing about us. They're hearing the bickering and the posturing and the promoting, but they aren't hearing the Gospel. Not from we who know that we are right there for it, that we know intimately what Jesus is doing.
Because we're too busy looking at ourselves.
Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if more of us were looking at Jesus. Particularly those of us who seem to get the best invites. Pastors, ministers, preachers all around the world who have built their names more than they've built His...what if they didn't? What if they went home and, around the dinner table, were talking about all the cool things they'd gotten to see Jesus do that day? What if they stepped up to our pulpits and told stories about Him? Real stories. From a real, vital, living experience with Him.
What if they weren't trying to be the greatest, but were just thankful to be present?
What if we were?