Yr B ~ Pentecost 22 ~ Mark 10:35-45
I’d like everyone to turn and look at someone else in the congregation right now, make eye contact, smile, and now say these words, “I’d like you to do for me whatever I ask of you.”
Did they say, “Sure! I’d love to! What do you want?”
Did they say, “Shyeah right! Good luck with that buddy!”
It’s a weird thing to say to someone, isn’t it? The logical response is to ask, “What is it you want me to do for you?” – Well, the likely response is to be very warry of anyone who asks the “do whatever I ask” question in the first place, but curiosity will probably get the best of you and you’ll at least ask what exactly it is that they want.
That’s how this scene starts out in Mark 10. James and John, two of Jesus’ inner circle, decide to ask Jesus to do whatever they ask of him. I wonder if they thought that because Jesus is such a nice guy that he’d just say yes? (Christians are nice people – they always say yes!)
Or maybe they thought because they were part of the inner circle that they could capitalize on their position and gain some benefits?
Of course, that kinda makes you wonder if they’d been listening to anything Jesus had been teaching all this time, but we’ll set that aside. There’s a reason why I like to call them duh-sciples! They often seem to really not get it (which makes me feel a little better about myself, I must say).
So James and John ask for a yes to whatever they ask – and Jesus asks what exactly they’re after – and they say, v.37, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
And Jesus replies, v.38, “You don’t know what you’re asking!”
It wasn’t part of today’s reading but directly before this scene in Mark’s gospel Jesus teaches his disciples about how considering the path he’s on that he will surely be killed in the near future. It says, in Mark 10:32-34 that Jesus astonished the disciples with this teaching – even though it was the third time he’d taught them about his looming death! (Did I mention that they’re duh-sciples?)
And with that sobering teaching still ringing in their ears these two clowns run up to Jesus and ask to sit at his right and left hand in glory.
That means that they still think Jesus is going to be super-powerful and they want to share in that power. It is a remarkable exercise in missing the point!
Jesus says, “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?”
vv.39-40 They replied, “We are able.”
The Greek word is dynametha – as in dynamic, powerful – “we are powerful,” they say!
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.”
The language is a little odd and cryptic, and the metaphors are fairly complex – but I think what Jesus is saying here with the cup and baptism thing is that he’s on a particular path – the life of faith is a particular path – full immersion in the presence and love of God propels one into the Way of Jesus which is a particular path that has significant consequences – and if you are really a follower of Jesus then you need to be prepared to live out that love and follow that path and know that there will be consequences.
In other words, he says, “Be careful what you ask for!”
I’ll come back to this. I want to finish going through the scripture passage first. read on