Text: Mark 10:35-45
43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Power in serving
My friend Jim is a man of means. He came up through a family dedicated to hard work. He was skilled, he had a plan, and he worked very hard every day to make his plan a reality. It has paid off in many ways for him. Many successes in his business and personal life followed. I can’t remember anyone so completely skilled and focused on the task needed to succeed, and succeeding at what he put his mind on.
I also remember someone so completely generous with his time, talents and treasures. He was always willing to share and help. At times he worked more for the benefit of others then they did or would do for themselves. He served their needs but it also served the greater good of the company and his family a well … a real win-win situation … strength, power and service all in one package.
Our reading for today deals with power and service but with different people and with different intentions.
James and John, the so called “Son’s of Thunder” by Jesus in Mark 3:17 show here why Jesus had given them that name designation.
Seemingly as a spoiled child might ask for that which they know they don’t deserve or shouldn't expect to get we hear 35 …“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
This same James and John in another memorable gospel moment in Luke Chapter 9 had inquired of Jesus:
“Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Luke 9:54
This they did after the Samaritan village had not received Jesus and seeing that he was steadfast set to go to Jerusalem.
The Lord’s, all knowing mind, seems to have given James and John a proper title – for they were these young followers and disciples of Jesus who had left their fathers boat and work to go and follow him.
But here too we see where they are focused.
37 … “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
Or, in Matthew’s gospel in your Glory is translated as in your Kingdom, spoken by their mother, Salome the wife of Zebedee who intercedes for her two boys who quickly seconded her request.
The disciples here didn't understand Christ’s mission, work or glory but were thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom and an earthy ruler and a place of honor for themselves.
But our good news is that Christ came to serve … you!
Humility and servant hood is hard for you and me as well. We too look for the choice seats, to be recognized and to be rewarded. But to be a true servant is to model Christ.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 2:1-2
But can we run the race, can we remain faithful until the end, can we endure the trials in this life? For we too like James and John don’t know what we are asking.
38 … “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus said.
Paul in his letter to the Philippians brings peace when he writes:
2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Phil 2:1-3
As children who have been brought to the Lord by loving parents and as parents who love our children we bring those who are unable to bring themselves to the Lord.
In humility we consider them more significant than ourselves, and with life given into our care, we look to their well being more than our own - giving them to the Lord - and promising to be the ones who raise them in the faith and instruction of the Lord.
We all fall short to be sure, but just as we wouldn't feed a child once and leave them to fend for themselves; faith also requires an active parental role to keep these precious gifts of God in their baptismal grace, so that they too might grow to know him, Jesus Christ both as Lord and Savior who
“came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
James and John were looking for the earthly glory that a Kingdom of this world provides. They received much more then they or their mother had asked for.
Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus asks. 39 And they said to him, “We are able.”
Herod had James put to death by the sword as the early church was persecuted. Acts 2:2
His brother John would remain and live to an old age leaving his thunderous youth behind to become the apostle of love, writing his Gospel and letters in exile on the island of Patmos, and giving a glimpse of the end of the age from visions given in the book of Revelation. Heeding Christ's command:
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
My friend Jim had another side as well. When we were younger and working together he took on another task. Through a contact with an acquaintance he began visiting a disabled man. Wheel Chair bound and in declining health he would go once a month and take him out to lunch.
It wasn’t easy but each month Jim would say I’ll be back in a while and go. I only found out the particulars down the road. He never talked much about it at the time. After a few years of this, the man couldn’t go out anymore and eventually passed away. Jim never talked about it but years later I asked him about it. I remember him saying, “I’ve been blessed so much it was just a way to give back … though it was hard.”
Thank the Lord that God has not left us alone but has done everything needed for us and has given us – his word and sacraments - for us so that we might be brought to faith and given life in his name and in humility serve the needs of others.
It is not always easy to give up ones seat at the table, or to allow another a place in line ahead of you.
It is not always easy to see to it that the light of Christ shines forth into a dark world that gets darker every day.
It is not always easy to stand firm when even the fabric of our own faith seems weak and unable to endure.
But Christ, who is the one who will never leave you nor forsake you, has stood in your place and he has completed the course for you. In him you have everything that you could not earn because he humbled himself for you.
45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit,