Mark 10: 35-45
35James 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.”36And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38But 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?” 39They 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; 40but 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.”41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So 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. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Servanthood rarely comes naturally. The many ways that you serve our church and our community require both intention and responsibility. This story is an opener for salvation. By its root meaning, salvation means healing.
In this story, James and John are vying for special position and recognition. Jesus senses that and meets them in their humanity.
It is by the same cup that they drink, and by the same baptism, yet, as he has explained to them, the sacrifices that Jesus will make are greater still. He explains that the positions and recognition in which they ask have already been selected for others. Still, by cup and by baptism, there is sacrifice in service, and he explains that to the disciples.
The remaining 10 disciples get pretty upset with James and John. Scripture says they were angry. Perhaps they were mad that James and John had the gull to ask for position and recognition. Perhaps they were mad that they hadn’t thought of that themselves. But I think something deeper is going on in this passage. If we back up to the one right before this one, Jesus is telling his disciples again (yes, again) about the sacrifices that he will make as the Son of God. So, when the 10 are getting mad at James and John, I think it is because they are understanding the very heavy nature of servanthood. Perhaps they are mad that James and John haven’t processed that enough, or yet.
I have been angry a time or two. And it doesn’t feel good. Earlier this year, I was feeling the heavy weight and burden of my call to servanthood. I was tired and emotional. I felt myself stirring to anger in relationship to a peer who could talk about his walk with Christ as a very light and fluffy experience. One that didn’t match up to mine.
After a heated exchange, I realized that I didn’t know anything about his walk or his sacrifice in servanthood.
Around that same time, I met with my own ordaining board who decided I was not ready. This left me upset and even bitter at the idea that I was sacrificing greatly, but no one else could see it or understand it, because I was sharing my experience with ease and poise and it probably looked like it was a walk in the park for me. One told me, “I cannot see any sacrifice in your call.”
Despite my own understanding of my call and the sacrificial nature of it, both internally and externally, and including the sacrifice of each person in my family, I was left frustrated and ultimately in prayer regarding my position.
You see, you know, better than anyone else what your sacrifice in servanthood feels like, looks like, and even smells like. In fact, two out of twelve won’t see it at all. And they will be the ones to pester you for position and prestige.
You see, I can relate to James and John. Ironically, I can relate to the remaining 10 disciples as well.
Now, what do we do with it?
Jesus reminds us that the cup is a shared cup. It is the cup intended for all. When we share in the cup, we share a bond of connectedness.
Baptism is like that as well. Our baptisms are individual, personal and a vow, and they are also experienced as a community of believers as well.
Jesus reminds us that we are bonded together in these ways, a community of followers. There is strength in numbers.
What I had to learn to do with my colleague and friend, yes the one I was mad at, was to remember that he could not see my covenants and I could not see his, but indeed they are bonded by cup and by baptism.
And those who don’t understand me? I have worked to recognize that I cannot see their sacrifices and they mine, and after some time and space, have forgiven them. By cup and by baptism, we are connected.
While the road may have big bumps from time to time, and anger is a normal feeling of grief, serving is rewarding and requires some sacrifice, much of which we cannot see for each other. May we have grace with each other, the kind of grace that is bonded by cup and by baptism, and salvation provided for us by Jesus.