In the exchange between Jesus and his disciples that begins with James and John we have much to learn and much common ground to be found.
James and John approach Jesus with a question, a question that reveals much about what is on their mind at this time – ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ Mark 10.37
It is refreshing to see that Jesus does not shut down their request. He does not make conditions before they ask what is on their mind, he simply allows them to speak, to ask of him what it is that they want.
In this we are reminded that we can always approach Jesus with what is on our mind, he is there for us, there is no need to make an appointment, just speak and he will listen.
And when they have asked, a question that not just the other 10 disciples find distasteful but one that we shake our heads at and think “how foolish, how slow to learn” Jesus treats their question seriously. He does no dismiss their need, their desire however wide of the mark it may be, but instead he engages with them meeting them where they are and then leading them to a deeper understanding.
Jesus remains open to the request from James and John. “What do you want me to do?” replies Jesus. Maybe we should just pause there for a moment and think to our selves What would I ask of Jesus if I was standing before him as James and John were?
What is at the top of my wish list?
James and John ask to “Sit at Jesus’ right and left in his glory”. It easy to be quick in judging them, Yes it is possible to see their response as naive and their request arising from pride or lust for power. However it may have been that they simple wanted to near to their friend and Lord, that sitting at Jesus’ right and left was the fulfilment of their desire.
Can the same be said of us – do we really desire to be at the side of Jesus, not just in his glory but in his life of service and in his suffering?
When we read of the anger of the other disciples I wonder what is at the heart of that anger? Is it that they are angry because James and John seemed to be making a bid for power or privileged and they were too slow to ask first? or is it that they see the folly in asking such a question, that the Kingdom the Jesus is speaking about and building is their midst is a far cry from the earthly kingdoms that rely upon power, favour and political ambition.
We may be quick to dismiss James and John and their swift response to the question of their lord as he asks “ Are you able to drink of the cup I drink and be baptised with the Baptism I am baptised with”
We, especially with hindsight, might be tempted to judge their response as foolhardy and not thought out. For Jesus has just told them what awaits him in Jerusalem in the preceding verses of the gospel.
Jesus has just told them that the cup that is to be held out to him contains a bitter and deadly draft. But these two disciples accept without question.
However what in fact the two disciples reveal is a quality that is worth striving for, an obedience and desire to accept what ever it takes to follow their Lord. And in the light of their response we need to ask ourselves
Could we, would we, accept the cup and baptism of Jesus if we were looking at the suffering humiliation and death that Jesus was looking at?
“ You will Drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with” replies Jesus to you and me who dare to accept him as our Lord and who risk everything to follow him.
Although Jesus is unable to grant James and John a place at his side, “These places belong to those whom they have been prepared”: Jesus is able to assure them, and you and me, that should we drink of the cup He drinks we will not be left drinking on our own.
As we think of the terrible violence in Syria and once again erupting in Israel/Palestine with 17 killed last week
As we are reminded all over again of the mindless and senseless loss of life on our streets as a 17 year old was stabbed to death in West London yesterday
As we worry about what is ahead of us this week in our own lives
Let us place our hope and faith in God through his Son Jesus Christ who is our servant king and who calls us now to follow him, and bring our lives to him - as a daily offering.
Let us pray
Oh people, you shall not drown in your tears
But tears shall bathe your wounds
Oh people, you shall not die from hunger
But hunger shall feed your souls.
Oh people, you are not weak in your suffering
But strong and brave with knowing
Oh people, If you have known struggle
Only then are you capable of loving.
Oh people, be aware of the love you have
Let not your tears submerge it
Let not your hunger eat it
Let not your suffering destroy it
Oh people, bitterness does not replace a grain of love
Let us be awake in our love.