Summary: The Problem of Evil asks "How can evil co-exist in a universe with an all-good, all-powerful God?" Pastor Jon looks at this difficult problem, drawing from the doctrine of free will, the tarnishing of creation at the fall of man, and the simple fact that
Last week we spoke of the difference between campaigns and callings—highlighting that Jesus did not campaign for his position as the Great High Priest, but was called to that position like the priests of old. He fulfilled his calling and was obedient to his Father, even though that calling led Him to death and suffering. As we looked at this Divine characteristic of Jesus as explained in our lesson from Hebrews 5:1-10, we were simultaneously challenged by the image of humanity as represented in the persons of James and John. Even as Jesus was taking deliberate steps of service and suffering, James and John were campaigning for greatness in Mark 10:35-45.
If we understand James and John, at least in part, to be pictures of our own desire to climb to the top, we were even more astounded at their (and our) inability to understand Jesus’ message when we looked at the lessons which they should have just learned—about children inheriting the kingdom of God, about rich men giving away or emptying themselves of everything, and about the first being last. And yet, James and John (and perhaps us by extension as well) forget those lessons and instead ask Jesus to name who will sit at His right and His left.
This week, I’d like to begin our study by looking a little closer at what it was that Jesus said to James and John. Hear the word of the Lord from Mark 10, verses 35-38:
35Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
36"What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
37They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
38"You don’t know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
The Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ
I think that Jesus’ response here is very interesting—He doesn’t immediately chastise them for their glory-seeking question. He doesn’t remind them of the lessons of the children or of the rich young ruler. Neither does He tell them a parable or quote a proverb. Instead, in true rabbinic fashion, he answers their question by asking another question—can you drink the cup I will drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with? They indicate that they can—after all, every disciple wants to be just like his rabbi—not only to know what he knows, but to live how he lives and to go where he goes—so of course James and John indicate that they will follow him wherever he leads. Even though it may seem obvious to us, it may not have seemed obvious to James and John that Jesus was offering another prediction about his death.
I don’t know about you, but it’s never really occurred to me before how completely unrelated Jesus’ question seems. What does sitting at His right or His left have to do with His death? Jesus doesn’t respond with a question about their leadership abilities or about their qualifications—instead He asks about their willingness to suffer. It’s as though somehow the suffering is directly related to His glorification. Hear now these words from Hebrews chapter 1, verses 9 and 10:
9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
The book of Hebrews seems to continually reinforce the theme that we are to journey with Jesus as He travels the path toward glorification—a path which leads through suffering and death. Even as Jesus the Son of God had to walk the road of suffering, it should come as no surprise that we too will walk that road. And yet, we have hope precisely because our Great High Priest has gone before us, has been tempted and has suffered in every way—and yet is now seated at the right hand of the Father.
We find a description of suffering in the Old Testament passage of Isaiah 53, verses 3-12—verses that would later be used to describe the Suffering of the Messiah:
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.