Text: Mark 10:35-45 35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to […]
Text: Mark 10:35-45
35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then 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; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight o Lord. Amen.
To be recognised among a large crowd by someone important is very humbling. We all feed feel good when a very important person recognises us that way. But what if someone wants to be recognised in such a large crowd and goes out of his way to realise that dream? How would you feel about this person?
In the Gospel of Mark Jesus predicts his death three times, first in chapter 8:31, then in chapter 9:31, and finally in chapter 10:33, just before this passage. Also in chapter 8:29, Jesus asks his disciples who they think he really is? Simon Peter replies, “You are the Messiah- the one who is appointed by God to redeem his people Israel.
Right after Jesus confesses three times that he will be handed over to the chief priest to be condemned, sentenced to death, die, and on the third day be raised to life; James and John approach Jesus and ask him to sit on each of his sides in his glory. Mark is a gospel that keeps Jesus’ glory a Big Secret until his death and resurrection. So even though Jesus warns his disciples’ 3 times of his death, they still do not understand him as yet. Hence, the request by the two brothers to sit on Jesus’ sides in his kingdom. They do not understand the ‘glory’ that Jesus is referring to.
Jesus politely explains to them that those who are to sit beside him is not for him to grant. James and John really wanted to stand out in the crowd and be recognised, even by the other ten. But that wasn’t what Jesus was encouraging – to be recognised among others. Jesus was teaching his disciples to become servants for others.
In the world today, sometimes our culture expects us to be recognised, to be honoured, or even respected. Being ‘recognised’ at times seems a good idea. Today’s culture is also one of equal opportunities, equal rights, etc. So there is always this thought that if somebody is doing this, then I should be doing that and so on. This trend of thinking then develops further into a race where everybody wants to compete and come out the winner on the other side.
In the Melanesian Context where I come from, to be recognised publicly is something of honour and prestige. Important visitors are acknowledged and made welcome in a gathering. And more often, these named people get called to deliver short greetings and messages to the general public. This is a kind of Melanesian Custom that ensures that an outsider may feel that he or she is a member of the community and nobody feels like being left out.
To be acknowledged in public is to have access into the inner circle where decisions of politics and economy happen.
But as Jesus sees it here, to have access into his inner circle is not something of a political or economic nature. To be in the inner circle of Jesus is not something of power, prestige, honour and respect. According to Jesus, those who have access to him are those that become servants to those around them and who need them most.
Knowing that he is on his way to the cross, the ultimate service of political and economic importance in his kingdom, that would render him as the true Messiah sent by God to redeem God’s people from the rule of slavery to sin, death, and the devil, he posed this question to them, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
Sometimes we are blinded by the ‘glorious things’ in life so much we forget that to be a Christian is not only a gift of God to us, but also a service to others that renders us as his people. Jesus reaffirms the brothers’ servanthood with the statement, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized”. In this statement, Jesus encourages James, John and all those who follow him to the path of the cross. As those redeemed by Christ, we are reminded by these words to follow the way of the cross in our service to our neighbours.
The LCA convention which has just ended, would have given the participants a lot of things to ponder on. Some items would have been easily accepted, and others would have been very hard to accept. Some participants would have felt accepted and recognised while others would have not.
When the other disciples heard of what James and John had asked Jesus about, they began to be angry. So Jesus called them all to him and made two statements to them:
- “You know that among the Gentiles (Non-Christians) those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you (those who know me);
- but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
We all love God, and want to follow his ways. But at times it seems that his ways are very hard to follow, especially when we are all different and do not recognise the importance of things in the same way. This often causes differences and drifts among us. But the beauty of it all is, we do not have to drink the exact cup that Jesus drank, or be baptized with the exact baptism that He was baptized with. Jesus says in Matt 11:30, “My yoke for you is lighter and easy to carry.”
Jesus has done it all for us on the cross, and this reality is presented to us as often as we eat and drink of his meal at his table, and partake in his victory. As a revisit to our Hebrew text last week, Hebrew 4:16 reads, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in the time of need.”
As the new high priest, Jesus offers us mercy, grace and peace on the cross. He shows us a new way to serve one another and those with great and special needs around us. To be recognised as a member of Jesus’ inner circle is not to sit at his side in his glory. In fact, it is the opposite. As we become servants to the needy among our midst, we exalt the lordship of Christ on the cross in our lives. And as we do so, the Lord is recognised in us, through our service to others. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, “In our service to others, our Lord Jesus is recognised in us.” We do not need to be recognised by him because he is recognised in us by our service to others. And the basis of our service to others is LOVE.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our lord, now and forever. Amen. The Lord be with you.
This sermon was shared by Rev Emmanuel Som Yalamu of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Semaphore while on scholarship in Australia.