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Friday, July 5, 2013
Today’s Reading | Mark 10:32–45
They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
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.” 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.” 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?” 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; 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.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 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. But it is not so among you; 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.” (NRSV)
Jesus’ life and death are a paradox that many of us in the church today still have trouble understanding. Like James and John in this story, we fail to recognize that Jesus’ death was intimately related to the central themes of his teaching. We refuse to acknowledge the connection Jesus made between selfless service and true power.
Instead, from our lives as individuals to our collective lives as communities and even as a nation, we view success according to the conventional wisdom of the world. Whether we admit it or not, we choose to understand power in terms of domination and control. We want to sit on thrones instead of kneel to wash feet in service.
But Jesus’ vision of new life among his followers is so radical and subversive that even after 2,000 years of being church, we still fall far short of what Jesus intended. To be sure, both as individuals and as collectives, we come close now and then. But like James and John, more often than not we delude ourselves and seek what we want instead of what Jesus wants.
What we need more than anything is to come back, time and time again, to the feet of our master and learn what he teaches. It took James and John and the other disciples a long time to finally get it, if they ever did. We must be just as diligent and pray that God is just as patient.
Patient God, continue to instruct me in the paradoxical ways of Christ. Give me the wisdom to understand and the courage to act. Amen.
Written by John W. Vest, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
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