Sunday, October 18, 2015

Left, Right, First, Last, Does it Matter? Just Be Thankful to be Invited to the Party

Most churches heard the Gospel of Mark 10:35-45 today. Here we see James and John trying to extract a promise from Jesus that they will be his favorites,
"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.’"
That certainly is a bold demand, but isn't that the way we all sometimes pray to God, for His positive response to our demands?

Instead of saying, "Excuse me?", Jesus lets them dig their own hole,
"And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’"
So, shovel in hand, James and John dig in,
"And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’"
To me, this is an echo of Elisha's request to Elijah in 2 Kings 2:9,
"And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me."
At this point in his ministry, some felt that Jesus was Elijah (although he corrected his disciples in Mark 9:9),
‘Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.’
So, one might expect his close followers to request a special inheritance like Elisha begged from Elijah. Jesus' disciples always seem to need a bit of correction.

Jumping back to Mark 10, rather than saying, "Get behind me Satan", Jesus uses this as an opportunity for a lesson.
"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.’" 
We don't get to see the reactions of James and John. Instead, we see the reactions of the others,
"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.’"
This is a reiteration in some ways of something we heard in last week's Gospel, Mark 10:31,
 "But many that are first shall be last; and the last first."
What if Jesus had said,
"Left, right, first, last, does it matter? Just be thankful to be invited to the party."
No, that just doesn't make the same impact.


  1. He will baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The Charismatics usually forgot about the second part of the baptism.

  2. Accepting the invitation to the party means accepting the whips and lashes and the pain of the cup as well.