Reading: Mark 10:35-45
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
A fortnight ago I spoke about Jesus expelling an evil spirit from a young boy. Remember the tension of faith and belief. The disciples are unable to remove the spirit. The boy’s father asks for pity and Jesus says all things are possible for those who believe. ‘I believe the man exclaims help me overcome my disbelief’.
Jesus commands the spirit out and the disciples question why they couldn’t do it. We left the gospel with the disciples arguing about who is the greatest amongst them and then taking exception to someone from out with their group casting out demons in Jesus name the ‘he’s no yin oh oo’ mentality. We left with Jesus reminding the disciples and us too that in his name we are all one then we finished off the service by singing that wonderful hymn ‘Thy hand O God has guided’ which of course contains the line, ‘one church, one Lord, one faith’. What has happened between that point and where we pick the story back up this morning? Jesus has told the parable of the rich young man who states that he has kept the commandments since he was a boy. But when asked to dispose of his worldly wealth to the poor in order to save his heavenly wealth the young man is sad because he had great wealth. The contrast and the tensions again around faith and trust, belief and doubt bubble away under the surface. This morning we are with Jesus on his journey toward Jerusalem. The astonished disciples are there, we are told those who followed were afraid. Then we come to another discussion between James and John, very similar to the ‘who is the greatest?’ one. To sit at the right and left of Jesus is their request. Who sits in these positions in at events we know of in our lives? We think of top tables at weddings the best man and bride’s maid have these seats. We think of official dinners being held the invited guest speakers hold these positions. The other ten it would appear have become upset at all of this and they behave not unlike they did before.
They stop short of telling James and John to stop as they did with the man casting out demons but none the less they became indignant with the brothers. The way to the throne of Jesus, is one of bitter suffering.
The places the brothers speak of, to sit with him in his glory, are places of privilege. The time will be for them and all who follow Jesus to be there with him in that glory but it will be in and at the right time. God will hold the kingdom in his hands. Jesus puts himself forward as the way to move in a pattern of serving others. He came not only to serve, Jesus came and gave his life for us. He endured the suffering that we might believe and find salvation through him. Taking the sin upon his shoulders that we might know eternal life in his presence. Will it matter where we are seated? It won’t matter a jot. To be in his presence, to know that we are known by God, that is prize enough for me. He gave his life as a ransom for many, his life for ours that we might have his life in ours. No longer slaves to the ways of this world but now alive in the freedom of the Christ who loves us. James and John wanted to know so many things. Those who followed Jesus wanted to hear so many words and see so many miracles. His disciples wanted to understand more fully. What are the two most important things we can learn on this journey through life?
I am going to take us back to the very first verse of the very first chapter of this gospel and it says, ‘The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ That’s the first thing we learn, and the second can be found in the Book of Acts, ‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’ Next week as we journey onward toward Jerusalem we stop off with Jesus and his disciples in the town of Jericho, their final stop before that entrance into the great city on Palm Sunday. Once more we will find someone asking something from Jesus. We will celebrate Communion together and in our own thoughts and prayers will be bringing to the mercy seat of the Christ, our Saviour, our thanksgiving for all that he gives to us in that heavenly feast.