James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus 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.”
In “Binding the Strong Man” by Ched Myers he spends a lot of time pointing out the various calls to discipleship throughout the Gospel of Mark. He says that over and over again the followers of Jesus are revealed to not really get it, to not really understand what is required of them. Over and over again Jesus calls them back to commitment. (And, by proxy, us as well.)
This is another one of those episodes. People arguing over who gets to have the good seat in the Kingdom. And when Jesus scolds James and John the rest of the disciples are more pissed that they didn’t think to ask first. They still don’t get it.
I often don’t get it either. I don’t get what is actually required of me. Or I do get it but I don’t want to do it. My ego gets in the way, my pride. I want attention. I want to be seen as a good person, doing good work.
Or sometimes it’s just laziness. Or wanting to be comfortable. The daily mundane. I get deluded into thinking there is nothing I can do to change things. Or that doing this little thing won’t make any difference (for good or ill).
It can be easy, in North America, to feel powerless to change anything. Or to be paralyzed with privilege or guilt about said privilege.
So what is the solution? I don’t know. Maybe being aware of it. Maybe recognizing these impulses in ourselves. Maybe serving as much as possible. I am trying to be aware of the ways in which my life doesn’t match up to the values I say I hold and trying to take steps to change that.
What does this passage bring up for you? What are you thinking about for your sermon next week? What other resources might you bring in? What questions do you have?