Grace and peace from the Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being.
James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.” “What is it? I’ll see what I can do.” “Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.” Jesus said, “…as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”Mark 10:35-45
Ahhh, the great mystery… who will be at Jesus’ right and left hand?? Who are those for whom it has been prepared?
We’ve been walking through the gospel of Mark this year—actually running through it—because the word ‘immediately’ is one of Mark’s favorite words. And I have said over and over again how much I love Mark’s gospel, because it is so clear and the contrasts are so stark. Jesus teaches and leads by example and the disciples and the religious leaders just don’t get it. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
Short, sweet and to the point
I love Mark’s gospel because it is 1) short and 2) sweet and 3) to the point… and I’m two out of those three.
But I have a confession to make. I am beginning to hate Mark’s gospel. I mean, I liked it at the beginning. Jesus talked about and exemplified ‘inclusion’ over ‘exclusion’ and I was okay with that. I mean, I kind of liked it. Because I’m pretty good at that. I’ve lived in another culture. I’ve done cross-cultural ministry in this country. I get it. I’m pretty good at it. I think it might put me in the running for being at his right or left hand.
But lately not so much. A few weeks ago, Mark starting talking about divorce and the hardening of one’s heart and that was kind of a stab to the heart because I’m not so good at that. Or rather, I’m really good at that, divorce and hardening of the heart. And then last week Mark talked about wealth being a hindrance to entering the kingdom and well—it’s painfully obvious—I am in bondage to my possessions and economic culture and cannot free myself. And I can feel those spots on Jesus’ right and left slipping away from me. My grip on them isn’t as tight as it used to be.
And then today, this passage:
Teacher… Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
And Jesus answered, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be a servant to you… and a slave to all. For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.”
Yikes. I’ve always used the kingdom for security instead of servant-hood. And I can feel those spots on Jesus’ right and left slipping away from me. My grip on them isn’t as tight as it used to be.
Me, Myself and I
We keep thinking Jesus’ death and resurrection are about our safety and security. But for Jesus, his death and resurrection don’t bring us to new point of security, where we can SIT with Jesus, but a new point of servant-hood where we JOURNEY with him back into the world. It’s the difference between seeing your faith as an individual endeavor or a communal one. If you see it as an individual endeavor, then security is your top issue. Because as an individual there is only me, myself, and I. If you see it as a communal endeavor, then there is us, we, and ourselves. All of us together, and I actually begin to love my neighbor as myself, not AS MUCH as myself but AS myself, because there is no separation between us—we are ONE!
Now in an individual world, I must secure power and authority to myself. The only way to stay safe and secure is to be lord over others. To be on top. Have all the power. And if Jesus is the way to that power and authority, I’m all for it, and he’s worth sitting next to, hanging with—figuratively not literally, of course, because hanging with Jesus has a whole different meaning.
But the radical nature of Jesus death and resurrection is that he turns all this on its head, upside down. For Jesus, his death and resurrection don’t bring us to a new point of security, where we can SIT with Jesus, but a new point of servant-hood where we JOURNEY with him back into the world.
You see, the kingdom of heaven is an alternative kingdom not a parallel one that depends on power and authority but just in a spiritual form, no, it’s servant-hood.
We do great damage and injury to the Mystery when we describe it as ALL-POWERFUL, instead of focusing on the Christ as suffering servant, the Christ on the cross. The term ALL-POWERFUL is a term that has achieved sacred status by the church since the Constantinian captivity of 313 but you find very little in Jesus’ sayings about this. Jesus’ parables are not about power but a mustard seed, a loving father to a prodigal son, a woman searching for a lost coin, a shepherd searching and caring for his sheep. And Jesus’ Beatitudes? I’m having a little trouble finding the phrase ALL-POWERFUL in them. Take a look for yourselves, maybe you can help me out with that.
These are not ALL-POWERFUL images in the least. The kingdom of heaven is an alternative kingdom, not a parallel one that depends on power and authority but just in a spiritual form. No! It’s servant-hood.
The gentiles lord it over others and are tyrants… but it shall not be so amongst you.”
What good is Jesus if he doesn’t grant me the power of righteous indignation?
What the heck??? If I can’t lord my Jesus over you and make judgments about you, what good is he? Seriously, what good is Jesus if he doesn’t grant me the power of righteous indignation over you? Look, I want a God who is an ALL-POWERFUL judge so I can say I’m being god-like when I judge you, lord my judgment over you.
But as I said, the kingdom of heaven is an alternative kingdom, not a parallel one that depends on power and authority but just in spiritual form. NO! It’s servant-hood.
The gentiles lord it over others and are tyrants…but it shall not be so amongst you.”
And so, the whole second half of Mark’s gospel is focused on Jesus’ journey to the cross.
And Jesus says this is his glory: His glory is when he is on the cross. And if you want to share in his glory, well, be careful, he might actually grant you what you wish.
The guy on the cross has gone ahead
And here’s how you know in Mark’s gospel that Jesus’ glory is when he is on the cross: there are no post-resurrection stories in Mark; there are no resurrection appearances in the original ending. The guy on the cross has simply gone ahead to Galilee, to our streets and homes, to meet us there, and to start the whole process of inclusion, and the softening of our hearts, and living life as a gift rather than a possession, and to initiate a kingdom of servant-hood rather than security.
He has simply gone ahead to Galilee to start that whole process all over again in us…
…to start the whole process all over again IN US!
No wonder we have made the purpose of Christianity into being next to Jesus in the life to come— who wants to be with him in his earthly life? We know how that ends! But it’s not about who will be on Jesus’ right and Jesus’ left. It’s not about us being NEXT to Jesus. It’s about Jesus being IN us. We want to be next to him in a future life where it’s safe and secure for us. He wants to be inside of us where he’s dangerous and free, set loose on the world. So, the solution to our problems is not in sitting with Jesus at his right and left in the life to come, but with his living in us, in a life of servant-hood and service to others, here and now.
Being Next to Jesus
But since individualism is the idol of our culture, we would much rather have Jesus be our personal Lord and Savior than the Savior of the WORLD. Because if Jesus is the Savior of the WORLD, instead of just being my personal Lord and Savior, then that means you are just as important to him as I am…and I am to serve you as I would myself.
But look, if you want to insist on the paradigm of being next to Jesus, being on his right or on his left, if that’s the only way you can conceive it… If you’re dying to know if you will be at his right or his left when he is in his glory or if you are dying to know who will be there, then I will tell you. You want to know who ends up next to him on his right and his left in his glory???
It’s TWO THIEVES!
But don’t worry, they’re not next to him very long. After a few hours they are taken down and re-membered to him in his kingdom.
So don’t worry, those spaces open up and you and I will have our turn, to be baptized into his baptism and drink the cup he drinks…
because if you want to be next to Jesus, you have to be next to Jesus.
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Spirit in the Desert faith mentor, Rev. “Bro. Jim” Hanson.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.