Summary: PROPER 25- YEAR B - Before we can be allowed to sit at Christ’ side in glory we must first be willing to follow him through Calvary. We are called not to lord it over others, but to become like Jesus a servant of all.
I remember once when I was a young man in the Navy our carrier anchored off of Marcelle France and so I took the opportunity to travel around the city with a Christian friend. At one point in our journey we stopped off at a streetside food stand to get a bite of lunch. Their specialty was a hamburger submarine sandwitch. Boy did that look good, so I ordered one. As the hamburgers were cooking the woman asked me if I wanted some of their special sauce. Now she spoke French and I didn’t so this was all done through hand signals. I waved back a yes, but she seemed uncomfortable with my decision and signalled back with a “do you really want to do this?” Confident in my youthful maturity I once again waved back my affirmation. Now in America since the customer is always right I would have gotten that special sauce, but I guess in France they have never bought into that motto. So instead she offered me a sample on a spoon. So I dipped my finger into the sauce and placed it on the tip of my tongue. Liquid fire, my tongue began to burn so badly that I began to spin around and flap my hands trying to put out the heat. The woman immediately handed me a glass of water and I gulped it down in desperation. While at the same time, both my friend and a complete stranger, stood there laughing
their heads off.
How many of us often wind up sorry for what we asked, when we had no idea the consequences of our desires? As the old saying goes, "Careful what you ask for you just might get it." James and John were in that situation when they came to Jesus with a very particular favor in mind. The scriptures tell us that they requested of Jesus that when he entered into his glory that he would allow one of them to sit on his right and the other on his left. Now that’ hutzpa!!! But please understand they were not being arrogant, they were simple being faithful Jews. As the writer of Hebrews encourged his listeners, “The Lord is near! Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.” Clearly James and John had the boldness of Daniel and the fortitude of Jeremiah. They let their request be known, and with more than a dash of boldness. But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
Now let me ask you, do you have any idea what Jesus is talking about? Probably not, right? And I doubt James and John even knew. but it didn’t really matter because at that moment their minds were focussed on what their hearts desired. Here was their opportunity to check things out first, to ask a few question, to take a foretaste of what is to come. But no!!!! They clearly knew what they were getting into. And so they said to Jesus, “We are able.” You want to bet. Too often we forget just as we seek God, so does God seek us. Just as we have desires and expectations and hope for the outcome of our walk with our heavenly father, so does God have desires and expectations and hope for the outcome of his walk with us.
The apostle Paul spells it out for us in Philippians 2:5-8 he writes, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” This was the cup that Jesus mentions, this was the baptism to which he refers. His suffering on our behalf. His willingness to die for our redemption that we might find grace. A grace that comes from God alone, and though it’s offered to us free of charge, it has never been cheap. No this grace is costly. Costly, says Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son. And it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to take up our own cross daily and to follow the Christ. This is why James and John did not understand what they asked for because to sit by Christ’s side means you must live as Christ. Why ? Because “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”