Friday, October 16, 2015

The Sunday Word

So James and John say to Jesus, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." 

They want a couple of prime cabinet posts in the messianic administration of Jesus, sitting in the seats closest to the very regent of God. Nothing would make them happier than having people look up at Jesus and his Dream Team, marveling at how great they are.

But there are a couple of problems with being great. The first is a life of illusion, and the second is a state of confusion.

The illusion is that you are more invincible, powerful and righteous than you really are.

The confusion is that you do not know the true meaning of greatness.

History teaches that greatness is often linked to a life of illusion, one which causes people to believe that they are more invincible, powerful and righteous than they really are. 

Jesus addresses in the gospel of Mark. "You do not know what you are asking," says Jesus to the aspiring great ones, James and John. "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" Jesus senses that they are confused about what they are getting into, and he makes clear that the path to glory goes straight through the wilderness of suffering.

Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, asks Jesus -- the cup of my blood, shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sin? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with -- the baptism of dying and rising, one in which suffering and death always precede joy and new life?

John and James reply, "We are able." The two come across as supremely confident, but you have to suspect that they don't know what they're talking about. They're still confused about the path that lies ahead.

Jesus doesn't shoot them down. Instead, he nods in agreement. "The cup that I drink you will drink," he promises; "and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized." He knows that they are walking the way of the cross, which will lead to suffering for all and to death for some. 

James and John. Both suffered. One was martyred. They drank the cup and experienced the baptism.

But as for positions of honor, Jesus says: "to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant." Jesus can promise suffering, death and new life to all who follow him in faith, but the granting of special places in the kingdom of heaven? That's God's call, because God is in control.