ON TO JERUSALEM
May 29, 2013
Today’s gospel: Mark 10:32-45
To serve the Lord will involve joys and sorrows, ups and downs, blessings and curses, consolation and desolation, gain and pain. This is simply the way of the Master whom a servant follows, as Jesus, who is “the Son of Man” will be handed over to people who “will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death” (Mk 10:33-34). Now if we know what awaits us as we serve the Lord, then well and good. We will not be disappointed, discouraged or frustrated.
This entails knowing some further principles of servanthood.
First, we need to know the proper relationship between the servant and the Master. The roles should be clear enough in the titles. One is a servant, who merely obeys, and the other is the Master, who commands. Sometimes we have it backwards, as James and John did. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” (Mk 10:35). What? The servants are dictating to their Master?
How often do we ask things of Jesus, even to the point of demanding? How often do we expect things of Jesus, to the point of being disappointed with him when we do not get what we want? But this posture is indeed the path to disappointment. Why? Because we, with our fallen nature, often desire what God deems not proper or good for us. But God, who loves us and has a wonderful plan for us, fortunately is not dictated to, and will do for us only what will be for our good.
Second, the servant is not to look to glory, for glory only belongs to the Master. James and John said to Jesus, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” (Mk 10:37). Servants sit at the feet of the Master, way down there, and not beside him, way up there. Only one is good, only one is God, only one is Lord and Master, and it is not us. The position of a servant is a lowly one, but it is what reflects the glory of the Master.
Third, for the servant there indeed will be joys and sorrows, but for the moment, what we can only look forward to with assurance is the cup of suffering. Jesus told James and John, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, …. but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give” (Mk 10:39-40a). We follow One who has no place to place his head. Jesus does not beguile us into become his servants by promises of blessings and glory. He bares the truth of servanthood. It will be difficult. It will involve pain, perhaps lots of it.
Right off, Jesus prepares the servant for a life of authentic service, in the way that Jesus himself served. He hardly had time to rest, he missed his meals, he was misunderstood and mistreated. If a servant went into Jesus’ service with expectations of glory, he would not be of much use to the Master, and in fact could himself give up quickly when the trials and tribulations come.
Fourth, although the outlook seems bleak, in that there is suffering and pain, Jesus is actually priming the servant for what is of true value, that of eternal reward. What Jesus offers right off is hard and sometimes “unrewarding” work, but there indeed is glory to come, “for those for whom it has been prepared.” (Mk 10:40b). Did not Jesus tell us that where he is bringing us there are many mansions. Those mansions have some of our names on them!
When the ten other apostles heard what was going on, “they became indignant at James and John.” (Mk 10:41). Now they were not indignant because they fully understood servanthood and rued the wrong posture of the two. On the contrary, they also had dreams of glory in mind, but James and John beat them to it!
So Jesus took the occasion to teach them about true servanthood. Jesus said, “whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” (Mk 10:43b-44). Glory is in serving. Greatness is in taking the lowest place. The first is the last. The leader is the servant.
This is so contrary to the ways of the world, where “those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.” (Mk 10:42). Many times, such secular thinking spills over into Christian service. Servant leaders need to hear the Lord speak to them over and over, saying, “But it shall not be so among you.” (Mk 10:43a).
In fact, as we follow in the footsteps of our Master Jesus, we see that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45). The greatest of all, God Himself, to whom all the angels minister in His court, whom all nature and creatures acclaim, came as a lowly human in order to serve. And Jesus not only served, he gave his very life. That was the ultimate service. When one offers his life, there is nothing more to give.
Jesus’ words about the cup that is to be drunk may be intimidating at first for those who aspire to be his servants. “They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” (Mk 10:32b). But when we understand his words, then we see the beauty and splendor of following him, and the great privilege of being his servant. Jesus went ahead to Jerusalem, where the cross, and the glory, awaited him. That is where we will be going as well. “They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them.” (Mk 10:32a).
God bless you all.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)