The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
God of unchangeable power,
when the heaven and earth were made,
the morning stars sang together
and the host of heaven shouted for joy:
open our eyes to the wonders of creation
and teach us to use all things for good,
to the honour of your glorious name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of
the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.
- Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
- Psalm 104:1-10, 26
- Hebrews 5:1-10
- Mark 10:(32-34) 35-45
- Job 42:1-6, 10-17
- Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)
- Hebrews 7:21-28
- Mark 10:46-52
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 21 – Mark 10:32-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and asked, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised …?
In the Gospel reading a few weeks ago (just a chapter ago in Mark’s Gospel), Jesus admonished his disciples for their pointless argument among themselves as to who was the most important. James and John apparently did not get the message.
In today’s Gospel account, the two sons of Zebedee – who, with Peter, make up Jesus’ inner circle – ask for the places of honour and influence when Jesus begins his reign. James and John proclaim their willingness to “drink the cup” of suffering and share in the “bath” or “baptism” of pain Jesus will experience (the Greek word used is baptise in, meaning to immerse oneself in an event or situation). Jesus finally tells them the assigning of such honours is the prerogative of God the Father.
Most readers share the other disciples’ indignation at the incredible nerve of James and John to make such a request (Matthew, in his Gospel, casts the two brothers in a better light by having their mother make the request — Matthew 20: 20.) Jesus calls the disciples together to try again to make them understand that he calls them to greatness through service. Jesus’ admonition to them is almost a pleading: If you really understand me and what I am about, if you really want to be my disciple, if you really seek to be worthy of my name, then you must see the world differently and respond to its challenges with a very different set of values. The world may try to justify vengeance rather than forgiveness, to glorify self-preservation over selflessness, to insist on preserving the system and convention for the sake of compassion and justice – but it cannot be that way with you.
To be an authentic disciple of Jesus means to put ourselves in the humble, demanding role of servant to others, to intentionally seek the happiness and fulfillment of those we love regardless of the cost to ourselves.
Jesus’ admonition “It shall not be so among you” is perhaps the greatest challenge of the Gospel, calling us not to accept “business as usual,” not to accept injustice and estrangement as “the way things are,” not to justify our flexible morals and ethics with the mantra “everybody does it.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus poses the challenge: Can you drink the cup I will drink? Can you immerse yourself in my baptism? Our first inclination is to say, No, Lord, we can’t. It’s more than we can do. What Jesus asks us to take on is not easy: his life of humble service, his emptying himself of his own needs and wants for the sake of others. But there is also a promise here: that if we resolve to try to imitate Jesus’ compassion, if we seek what is right and good and just, if we are motivated by generosity of heart, then the grace of God’s wisdom and strength will be ours, the Spirit of God’s compassion and mercy will be upon us.
Discipleship calls us to a sense of gratitude for what we have received from God and a commitment to servanthood, putting the lives God has given to us to the service of others, in imitation of his Christ.
Authentic faith is centred in humility – humility that begins with valuing life as a gift from God, a gift we have received only through God’s mysterious love, not through anything we have done to deserve it.
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You can read the Pew Sheet herePentecost-21-B