They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
I was reading yesterday about a peace protest that took place recently outside a church somewhere in Washington D.C. in America and, sadly, it was the church parishioners themselves who were the targets of the protest.
Apparently this church – a wealthy and powerful one – is renowned for its outspoken support for the seemingly endless wars that are being waged in the Middle East, and so the protesters (Christian people from traditions that don’t support endless war) were picketing the parishioners as they entered and exited the church car-park.
And I was impressed with the wording on one of the signs that one of the protesters was holding up. It was a piece of pithy wisdom that was a twist on the old classic, “what would Jesus do?” It said, “Who would Jesus bomb?”
And I don’t know what sort of response the protester received – whether people actually got the point or whether some of them gave him a list of prospective countries and peoples that they thought might be on Jesus’ list – but I do recognise that for a lot of Christian people in this world the question, “who would Jesus bomb?” is indeed one that deserves serious consideration!
And it’s easy for us to sit back and shake our heads and say, ‘well, they just don’t get it’, as we sophisticated Biblically-aware souls from the Sydney Anglican end of the Christian spectrum naturally have a far more authoritative grasp of what Jesus was on about, and yet as I read through today’s Gospel reading it does cause me to ask, “have any of us ever really got it?”
The story recorded in the later part of Mark chapter 10 contains a rather painful incident where the sons of Zebedee – James and John – ask for positions of authority on Jesus’management team, and I find the scene painful in the same way I find episodes of ‘The Office’ painful. It’s gut-wrenchingly embarrassing to watch!
It begins with the brothers putting a question to Jesus such as five-year old children put to their mums and dads: “We want you to do for us whatever we ask”.
The natural response to this, of course, is ‘what do you want me to do?’ to which the five-year-old normally responds, ‘you’ve got to promise to do it first, before I tell you!’