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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Mark 10:32–45

James T. Batchelor

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Mar 22, 2015 

You have often heard me say that Peter is often the one who says out loud what all the disciples are thinking.  Todays Gospel demonstrates that Peter is not the only disciple who doesnt get it.  A few weeks ago, we heard Peter stick his foot into his mouth.  Jesus was explaining that, as the Christ, He was to go to Jerusalem, get arrested, suffer, die, and rise from the dead.  Peter thought it was his responsibility to scold Jesus for such silly talk.  It was then that Jesus scolded Peter and said, Get behind me Satan! (Mark 8:33)

This time, it is James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee, who demonstrate that they dont get it.  Jesus is all about His suffering, death, and resurrection, and James and John respond with a request for power.  They said to him, Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory. (Mark 10:37) Have they been listening?  Jesus has told them about His glory.  See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise. (Mark 10:33-34) The way of glory goes through suffering and death on a cross, but these two disciples are not paying attention.  They are not getting it.

Jesus said as much.  He flat out told them, You do not know what you are asking. (Mark 10:38) James and John were thinking that glory meant power and honor, but Jesus knew that it meant suffering and shame.  The glory of God totally contradicts the glory of this world.

Jesus then went on to instruct these disciples using the metaphors of the cup and baptism.  Jesus said to them, Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? (Mark 10:38)

The Cup is a Biblical metaphor that can stand for all kinds of things.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5) The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. (Psalm 16:5) What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. (Psalm 116:1214)

Of course a cup does not always contain good things.  Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. (Psalm 11:6) For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs. (Psalm 75:8) You have gone the way of your sister; therefore I will give her cup into your hand. Thus says the Lord God: You shall drink your sisters cup that is deep and large; you shall be laughed at and held in derision, for it contains much; you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria; (Ezekiel 23:3133)

We learn exactly what kind of cup Jesus speaks of when we hear the words of His prayer in Gethsemane.  He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. (Mark 14:36) So Jesus was asking James and John, Can you drink the cup of suffering and crucifixion with me?

Jesus also used word baptism as a metaphor.  The way He used the word indicates that this is a future baptism.  It is not the baptism of John in the Jordan.  When we look at the context, we see that He is using baptism in the way we use it when we say the phrase Baptism of Fire. Within the context of this sentence, the word baptism is also a metaphor for His upcoming suffering, death, and resurrection.  Once again, Jesus was asking James and John, Can you endure the baptism of suffering and crucifixion with me?

The answer that James and John gave to Jesus question was astonishing.  Jesus basically asked them if they were able to endure suffering and crucifixion with Him, and they said to him, We are able. (Mark 10:39) I have to think that they were utterly clueless.

Jesus reply is equally amazing.  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 (Mark 10:39) Indeed James, John, and all the apostles joined Jesus in suffering.  Except for Judas the betrayer, all the apostles spent time in prison for their faith.  The Bible tells us that James was the first of the apostles to die for his faith.  About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword. (Acts 12:12) Although John died of natural causes, church tradition indicates that his enemies tried to poison him and boil him in oil.  The apostles did indeed drink the cup of suffering and death while they lived here on this earth.  Millions of martyrs have drunk of this cup down through the centuries.  Even now many Christians are drinking the cup of suffering at the hands of the Islamic State.

Jesus then continued, 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. (Mark 10:39) Jesus told the disciples that they would suffer for their faith, but those who were to be at His right and left were already chosen as we read in the account of the crucifixion: And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, The King of the Jews. And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. (Mark 15:2527) All we know about the two men who sat with Jesus when He came into his glory is that they were criminals.  We do not even know their names.  James and John, in their ignorance, were asking to take the role of these two criminals.  They just dont get it.

The other ten disciples didnt get it either.  Our reading tells us that the other ten were just as self-centered.  When the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. (Mark 10:41) All twelve disciples struggled to make themselves the most important in their group.  All twelve struggled for power.

Once again, we see that human nature hasnt changed.  People still fight over who is in charge who has the most power.  It is just as the Holy Spirit inspired James to write: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:13) These words accurately describe the little dictator inside of each and every one of us the little dictator who wants to be in charge the little dictator who wants to give the orders.

Fortunately for James and John, and you and me, Jesus does not have a problem with His role as servant and slave.  Jesus did not just instruct us to serve one another, but He Himself is the ultimate servant.  He continued to teach His disciples in spite of their stubbornness and He said, Even 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) Even though we dont serve as we should even though we dont adopt the role of slave as Jesus commands, Jesus still became the perfect servant for us.  He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8) In Jesus Christ we see the glory of victory in the agony of the cross.  We see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)

Early in todays reading from the Gospel, we heard Jesus tell the disciples that He would not only serve with His suffering and death, but that He would also serve by rising on the third day.  His resurrection certified His perfect service His role as perfect slave in order to offer us perfect salvation.  Even though we still fight for power over others, He gives us forgiveness.  He forgives our self-centered search for glory, power, and pride.  He gives the salvation that He earned with His glorious victory on the cross.

Jesus still gives us a cup to drink and a baptism with which to be baptized.  Because He offered Himself up as the perfect slave, we will not drink the cup of Gods wrath.  Instead, we shall drink the cup of salvation.  We shall not endure the baptism of eternal fire.  Instead, we receive the baptism of water and word.  We may suffer in this life, but our eternal salvation is secure in Jesus Christ, our perfect suffering servant.

We, like James and John, want glory for ourselves.  We want popularity, fame, power, security, and all the other things that serve our own self-interest.  This is one more symptom of the sin that is around us and in us while we live in this world.

Jesus came for a different kind of glory.  He came to rescue us from this world of sin by submitting to death on a cross.  He has special honor and glory because of the suffering of that death.  He revealed that honor and glory with His resurrection from that death.  Now He offers salvation to us through the Holy Spirits gift of faith for He has given His life as a ransom for many.  Amen

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