Summary: Lent 5 (B). Christ gave his life as a ransom, freeing us not only from sin, but from our own flesh and the power of the devil. We are now free to serve others, as we live under Him in His kingdom.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Free not to be me”
Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem. And as they are walking, He is telling them about His upcoming Passion. How he will suffer, be crucified, dead and buried. Remember back to Transfiguration Sunday. Right before Jesus was transfigured, and His glory as the Son of God was revealed, He told his disciples for the first time about His death. Peter, who had just confessed that Jesus was Christ, the Son of the Living God, starts into an argument with Jesus. Yes, Jesus, of all people. Saying how Jesus must not die. Jesus wastes no time correcting him, “Get behind me Satan.” Jesus calls him out, calls Peter the devil.
After the transfiguration, Jesus starts heading for Jerusalem, for He knows His time is coming. As they are traveling, Jesus teaches them many things, and performs more miracles. He also tells them a second time about His death. 'The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.' But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” (Mark 9:31-32).
They keep traveling, and Jesus keeps teaching. Right before our text today, Jesus tells them again, “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. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” Jesus has told them now about His death, count it out, 1 – 2 – 3 times. And now He is telling them more details. He will not only be killed. He will be condemned, handed over, mocked, spit on, and whipped. These words have just fallen from Jesus’ lips, and here come the disciples in our reading today.
“Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask.” Well, they are at it again, aren’t they? The disciples are busy displaying their ignorance. Only this time it is not Peter, but James and John. Their request of Jesus is almost laughable. They call him “Teacher,” which means that He is in charge, and He is the leader. Then they flip it all around, asking that He do what they say. So much for third time’s the charm. Instead, they step up to the plate, only to swing and miss again. If this had been basebell, three strikes, and they would have been out.
But Jesus has patience with them. “What do you want Me to do?” “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” And here it is. These two are thinking that Jesus is about to establish an earthly kingdom, and they want in on the action. Jesus, you are number one, but make us number two and number three. Crowned princes as it were. Vice President and Secretary of State we might say.
It’s easy to see the foolishness and arrogance of James and John, isn’t it. Jesus has told them three times about His death, and they are still looking for glory. Foolish, foolish. And the other disciples saw the arrogance. “What do you two think you are doing?” they argue. What makes you think you get to be number two and number three? So you think are you big shots, and better than us?
Jesus has to step in and calm things down. You all have bad math. You want to be great, number two and three? Then instead of being “A,” you need to be “Z”. It is the gentiles who are lording it over each other. But you will not be like that. I have come to serve, so serve one another.
So just what were James and John up to? Why did they want to be number two and number three? They wanted these positions so that they could sop up the glory they thought would be surrounding Jesus. They wanted His glory for their glory. Sopping of glory isn't limited to them. We watch our favorite team on TV, and the next day proudly proclaim, "We won!" Who is this we? What did I do but sit around on the couch, and eat potato chips. There is nothing wrong about watching the game or eating potato chips. But it is the players that won. Yet, we say, "we won" because we want to sop up their glory for ourselves.
James and John claimed that Jesus was Rabbi, Teacher, Number One. But then they presumed to be able to tell Him what He should do. It seems that they are more like my friend’s great-grand-baby, whose grandpa on the other side proudly announced, “My granddaugther is so smart. She can count all the way to one.” James and John could count to one. Themselves. “Jesus,” they said, “We want you to do what we want.”