October 19, 2003
James and John, Zebedee's sons, came up to [Jesus]. "Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us."
"What is it? I'll see what I can do."
"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."
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?"
"Sure," they said. "Why not?"
Jesus said to them, "Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that's not my business. There are other arrangements for that."
When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. 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. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. 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."
1. The permutations of trying to climb the pyramid of life more quickly than others comes in many different flavors. We fight it out among ourselves, "Who's the greatest?" We fight it out among differing denominations, "We saw someone casting out demons in Jesus' name, and we tried to stop them, because they were not following us." And here is appeal to authority, "See to it we get the best seats in the house!"
2. Is anyone ready for the baptism of death? If you can so audaciously ask for honor, this is easy to claim. So, OK, you, too, will die, but that only makes you on the same plane as everyone else, it doesn't justify a special seat. See, there really is nothing you can claim that will guarantee this silly request. We are all born, crying and helpless. We all do the best we can with what we have. We all die. So how special are you? Coming to terms with this is freeing - so the question becomes completely irrelevant.
3. All the presuppositions we develop become beside the point. The goal and intention is not being raised up, separated from others, but to settle down into our commonness our connectedness with each other, mutual servants or as the song has it,
For you and I
Herein lies servanthood.