Be Careful What You Ask For

I don’t know about you, but when I read the lessons for today my first thought was ‘here we are back to Good Friday’. This is about Jesus as the Suffering Servant. Then in the Epistle, we hear that Jesus is the source of our salvation designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Our final reading from Mark, James, and John want to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in his glory. So how do all these themes fit together to make sense of the readings for today?

It is through Isaiah’s words that the people of Israel got to hear about their future in Christ. God was giving them a preview of what was going to happen in the future so that they and all people could experience forgiveness of sins. And he uses the image of a lamb, pure and spotless to suffer for our sins.

The lamb the high priest sacrifice was first offered for his own sins, and then once cleansed he could offer up a lamb for the sins of the people. Like all sheep, the Israelites kept straying from God and they needed a shepherd, the Messiah to save them from wandering away from him. However, Jesus being sinless did not need to repent of his sins; he was perfect from the very beginning. Both Melchizedek and Jesus were called by God into service; however, Melchizedek is considered an archetype or foreshadowing for Jesus who was to come. By each of their callings, they are considered men of righteousness and peace.

 I wonder how many of you have experienced the Good Friday service. It is a powerful service that makes us feel that we are truly there suffering with Jesus. From then on to Easter Morning there is a feeling of loss just like the disciples felt. This feeling of loss is the cleansing of our soul and inner being.  While we know the ending the disciples did not, they had lost all hope for the future with Jesus.

At each of our confirmations, we became part of the priesthood of all believers. As both in the priesthood and the diakonia/diaconate, we are to be examples of Christ showing mercy, love, healing, and redemption to everyone. We now have direct access to God through Jesus Christ who made it possible through his sacrifice on the cross. It was through Jesus’ obedience to God, taking our sins upon himself, being sinless he was made perfect in God’s sight. Jesus became the source of our eternal salvation because he changed our relationship with God and made us righteous in his sight.

 In the Gospel James and John were totally oblivious to what Jesus has been telling his disciples. Jesus has announced to his disciples three times about his coming death. Written in all three Gospels Jesus is saying following me requires you to deny oneself, to pick up his cross and follow him. Then we hear that those who want to be first must be last, and be a servant/slave for everyone. The final prediction is Jesus going up to Jerusalem where he will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes,  who condemn Jesus to death degrading him in the process, and then giving him to the Gentiles to be killed. Yet on the third day, following the three predictions of Jesus death that he would rise from the dead on the third day. Did the disciples totally tune Jesus out? Listen to the conversation James and John had with Jesus as recorded in the message:

Mark 10:35-45 (The Message)

   35 James and John, Zebedee's sons, came up to him. "Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us."

   36  "What is it?  I'll see what I can do."

   37 "Arrange it," they said, "so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left."

   38 Jesus said, "You have no idea what you're asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I'm about to be plunged into?"

   39 "Sure," they said.  "Why not?"

       Jesus said, "Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink and be baptized in my baptism. 40 But as to awarding places of honor, that's not my business. There are other arrangements for that."

   41 When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. 42 Jesus got them together to settle things down. "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around," he said, "and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. 43 It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. 44 Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. 45 That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage." 

We know that James and John did suffer and drink

from the cup of suffering and baptized into the baptism Jesus was through death, it was just not what they were expecting. I believe James and John envisioned Jesus sitting on his throne with them on his left and right as his advisors. How many times do we want to insert ourselves into someone else’s plans rather than letting them include us into their plans. Perhaps James and John should have listened to Jesus before volunteering to sit on his left and right hand. Life is full of people who want to be in charge; however, Jesus uses this request as a teaching moment. It is not the power from outside a person; instead, it is what comes from within. Jesus wanted them to understand that it is not the kingdom of the world that matters, instead the Kingdom of God where we serve. We can see it every day in the news and in life the misuse of power and authority. Jesus rarely used his authority and only when he had too. Instead, Jesus wanted James and John and the others to see that it is better to put yourself last rather than first and be a servant to those around you. As Jesus reminds us we cannot serve the world and God at the same time, we cannot have two masters. We are in this world but not of this world. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God through our baptism; our citizenship is different from the world. It is more honorable to wait tables than to have someone wait on us. However the world sees just the opposite. Unfortunately, we are in a time in our culture that we hear what we want to hear, ignoring the truth for our own way of thinking. Jesus is teaching us that we need to develop a mindset of following him whatever the cost, to serve and sacrifice on his behalf and not on ours.

We are all called to serve and we see this here at Good Shepherd every day, outside in public, working in the thrift store, the hospital, the arts council, schools, literacy council, the care center, and I could go on and on.

The world does not empower us Christ empowers and calls us to serve all of God’s people. The message of these lessons is to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice and reconciliation of our sins, and the healing which follows through God’s forgiveness of our sins forever. The mission of Christ and his church is to live a life of sacrifice and serving to the glory of God. Amen.