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." Mark 10:35-45
We are two-thirds of the way through Mark’s gospel,
and James and John have gotten the message…well, almost. They have seen the
miracles. They have witnessed the Transfiguration. They have travelled with
Jesus and heard him preach the coming kingdom. And that’s where they get lost. They
know that Jesus is the Messiah and they want first dibs on his glory. They want
the best seats in the house of the Lord. They think they deserve it and they’re
not shy about asking for it.
Jesus listens. He sees how far they have come and
how far they have yet to go. He knows it’s time to take them to the next level.
And it’s not the level they were planning on. They are angling for positions of
prestige and power. Jesus is committed to a life of selfless love and
Patiently, he explains: You don’t understand what you are asking. Jesus knows the suffering
that awaits him. He asks if James and John are ready to share his fate, if they
are prepared to drink of the cup that I
drink of. In posing the question this way, Jesus is being very forthright
with them. This was a common metaphor of the day to warn of great peril. But in
their enthusiasm and ambition, James and John are blind to the danger. And
Jesus, knowing the martyrdom waiting for them all, acknowledges that they will
share his fate. But ever in obedience to the Father, Jesus also tells them that
God has his own plans for eternity and the honors they seek are not his to give.
Overhearing this talk of honors and rewards, the other
apostles want to get in on the action. They start to grumble that James and
John are getting too big for their britches. Then Jesus shuts down the whole brouhaha,
telling them that they’ve got it all wrong. The disciples accept Jesus as the
Messiah, but they still don’t have a clue about what that really means. Jesus
wants to take them up to the next level, to have them fully understand what it
means to follow him. He tells them that to be a Christian means to serve, not
to lord it over people. It did then and it does now.
Like James and John most of us have gotten the
message… well, almost. We acknowledge Jesus as our Savior, and we hope to share
his kingdom. But it’s long past time for many of us to take being a Christian up
to the next level. Like the apostles, Jesus has a double barreled message for
us. We too must drink from the cup. No one passes through this life unscathed.
Disease, disappointment, heartbreak, physical, mental and emotional suffering…to
one degree or another, they are our common lot. They can make us or break us, depending
on how closely we cling to Jesus. The second part of the message is an
explanation of exactly what it means to follow Jesus. It is a life of serving,
not a life of being served.
While we may not be ready for this level of perfection,
we can take the first step. Let’s start with a simple attitude adjustment. Listen
more, talk less. Try understanding. Try forgiving. Try seeing things from the
other person’s point of view. Try not to take offense. Stop trying to convince
everyone that you’re the smartest guy in the room. Start bringing energy,
encouragement and affirmation to everyone you encounter today. Start helping and
do it humbly. Consciously make being an active loving Christian the focus of
your day. Then wake up tomorrow and do it again.
Congratulations you’re beginning to understand what
it means to be a Christian. Welcome to the next level.