Whose side are you on in this story? Let’s look at the cast list. James and John. The other 10 disciples, Jesus.
I understand where James and John are coming from. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you. “Whatever we ask of you.” Where would that stop? So much money we can buy anything in the world? A huge palace? It wouldn’t matter because they had asked Jesus to do “whatever we ask of you.” Pretty crafty of James and John.
It is sometimes said that if you want anything in this world you have to work for it. That’s not for James and John. They want a shortcut. They have worked for Jesus so why not a little favour in return. “Give us whatever we ask for.” Matthew’s account of this story said that they even had their mother there to plead their case.
Wouldn’t you like Jesus to give you whatever you want? Why not ask for it? perhaps our prayers sometimes are doing just that. Instead of wanting God we want what God can give us. We’re not afraid of asking God to do our will.
Perhaps we are not as brash as James and John. What about the other 10 disciples? They were indignant at James and John. Why was that? Were they annoyed about James and John’s forwardness? Were they upset that they hadn’t thought about asking if they could sit in glory first.
Perhaps they were thinking, “If we keep quiet maybe Jesus will give us whatever we want.”
So what about us? Are we the direct type, telling God, “here’s what I want you to do for me. The deadline is yesterday.” We may opt for a more subtle approach. Outdo others in church activities.. Make greater sacrifices. Be more obedient. Hope that God is noticing and we’ll get our reward in heaven.
What is Jesus’ response? “Asking doesn’t get.” You’re sacked.” No, he refers to his crucifixion.
“The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” The disciples didn’t understand what he was talking about at the time, but with hindsight we understand. Jesus was saying, “I’m not going to be king. I’m not going to be wealthy. I’m not planning to be popular. Jesus shared his mission statement,
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Let it sink in: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life to make people free.” He didn’t say, “put in three years of hard work and I’ll give you a good job in heaven. He said, “I do not want your service. I want to serve you.”
Sorry about this but I say this in just about every sermon. It’s all about love. The disciples were selfish to a man and probably to a woman too. The request was “Give us WHATEVER we want.”
For the first nine chapters of Mark Jesus had been showing and teaching the disciples that following him is about service and putting others before yourself.
This is the good news. God loves everybody. God loves selfish people. He loves selfish Christians people. God even loves selfish non-religious people.
In this reading Jesus explained to James and John that they also would suffer greatly for the gospel.
And, in fact, they did. We read in Acts 12, “At that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword.”
And according to early church tradition, John died in exile on the island of Patmos.
We’re called to be changed by God’s love. When we are changed we might have a go at imitating Jesus. We might become glad to serve others.
Our world is ruled by people who lord their authority over others. Imagine a world where people used their authority to serve like Jesus! What if everyone at Amington was eager to serve? And what if our memories were so bad we didn’t keep track, and we didn’t have a sense about how well we were serving others?
The dream of God’s kingdom is simply amazing. A community where people are are active in loving and serving others. I leave you with two sobering thoughts. Firstly. Christianity puts Jesus on the right hand of God. If you are on Jesus’ left you have put yourself between Jesus and God. Secondly if you are really keen to be on the left and right of Jesus. You will be where the two robbers were at his crucifixion.