They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“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?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
I think he was hoping maybe the third time would be the charm. This was the third time Jesus pulled his twelve disciples aside and gave them the explicit inside track on what was about to happen.
You remember the last time he told them this’they were afraid to ask him about it. Then there was the time before that, after Peter made his famous confession of Jesus as the Messiah.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:31–32)
Today a similarly absurd response on the part of the disciples. Jesus all but spells out Golgotha and all they can think about is glory.
It all makes me wonder what kind of response Jesus hoped to get from his disciples in response to this disclosure. Let’s ponder some possible responses.
They might have responded to him with more questions like, “What is the meaning of this?” or, “Why are you telling us this?” or, “What do you want us to do?” or, “What must we do to prepare for this?” or, “Why does this have to happen?”
They might have offered various solutions like, “How about we go back to Galilee and get back to work?” or, “Surely we can make some kind of deal with the Sanhedrin to avoid this” or, “Let’s put our heads together and try to solve this problem.”
Then there are the more empathic approaches, like maybe they could have fallen on their faces and cried with him over this devastating news, or maybe they could have embraced him and expressed their sadness and sorrow, or asked how he was doing with this prognosis and so on.
And, of course, there are the optimistic and opportunistic approaches like, “You can do it, Jesus! It will only hurt for a little while and it will all be worth it in the end!” or, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
My hunch on what he was looking for? I think he wanted them to take him by the hand, look him in the eye, and from the depth of their hearts say something like, “Jesus, we are with you every step of the way, come what may, no matter what, to the very end. The cross before us, the world behind us, no turning back. Let’s do this!”
The truth is that there is a cross in all of our paths almost all of the time and if it’s not in our path at the moment, it’s in someone else’s path we can help share. There are hard promises we must keep, difficult roads we must traverse, and painful decisions we must make against our self-interest, all in the interest of loving God and loving others. They are different from and yet in keeping with the decision Jesus made to go to Jerusalem and endure the cross on the way to resurrection. Along the way, the hard ways will be made easier, the heavy loads will become lighter, and the easy ways out will become more and more absurd to us.
And the best part of all is that he says to us exactly what he would have us say to him, “Friend, I am with you every step of the way, come what may, no matter what, to the very end. The cross before us, the world behind us, no turning back. Let’s do this!”
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
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