Lent 5B St. John, Galveston 3/21/21
+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
There is an incredible contrast in the two sections of this morning’s Gospel reading. In the first section, Jesus told His disciples about His coming betrayal, His trial, His crucifixion and finally His resurrection from the dead. “We are going up to Jerusalem (He said), and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
Different moments and different situations in life call for different reactions. Somber events call for somber reactions and joyful events call for joyful reactions. In Biblical terms, King Solomon once said, “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
Different moments and different situations in life call for different reactions. I think we all understand that to be true. This isn’t rocket science. It’s merely social convention and the proper expression of empathy and of compassion. This is why there is such a contrast between the two sections of this morning’s Gospel reading!
Jesus told His disciples about what lay ahead of them, of Him, in Jerusalem, His passion, His laying down His life for the sins of the world. He didn’t include many of the gruesome details of His coming Passion, the nails driven into His hands and feet, or, the crown of thorns shoved down onto His head, His mournful cries of abandonment as He looked heavenward, but it was enough for them to mourn and to weep. It was enough for them to loathe their own sinfulness. Indeed…
“What Thou, Lord, has suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
And grant to me Thy grace.”
But James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, listened to what He said, and they asked Him if they could have the family car and the family house!! No, wait, that’s not what they asked for, is it? No, it was much worse that!! They didn’t ask for Jesus’ stuff!! After-all, He didn’t have any stuff!! “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” They didn’t ask Jesus for His stuff!! They asked Him for the best seats in the coming Kingdom of glory, one of them to sit on His right and the other on His left!!
At the very least, the two brother’s response to Jesus’ news was a serious breach of social convention. But it was really much more than that. Before we get into what the serious issue was, we should also take note that the other disciples were also there when this exchange took place between Jesus and James and John. Mark tells us that the other disciples “were indignant with their request.”
Now, I suppose we could put the best construction on things and assume that the other disciples were indignant with James and John because they shouldn’t have asked Jesus for such a thing, especially considering the moment anyway. But we can’t dismiss the fact that they may have been indignant with James and John because they, that is, the other disciples, didn’t get to ask the question first. In other words, James and John beat them to the punch. Which simply means, they may have been just as guilty of this particular sin as were James and John. Jesus spoke of His coming death and resurrection, but they were more interested in POWER AND GLORY!
These two sections of this morning’s Gospel reading show us so clearly the contrast between God and men. It’s the contrast between a servant’s heart and an insatiable desire for power and glory. It’s the contrast between the love of others and the love of self. It’s the contrast between leadership by way of example, verses leadership with a heavy hand. Ultimately, it is the contrast between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory.
Jesus said to James and John, and the to the other disciples, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Of course, the first and greatest among us is Jesus, for He came, “not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” And so, for all of our talk about serving God or about what we can do to serve God, Jesus calls us, He calls you, to see in Him the true heart of a servant.From the moment of your baptism to this very moment, gathered here within these hallowed walls, in this sacred space, God comes to you to serve you, to give you forgiveness, to give you life and hope, to give you the peace that only He can give. All of these gifts of God are given to you so meekly and so simply that it’s easy for you to miss that they have been given and to miss the strength and the power that lay in them.
But again, this morning’s Gospel reading is to show you clearly the contrast between God and men that you might find the things of God, not in POWER AND IN GLORY, but in meekness and simplicity and even in weakness. James and John wanted the two seats of honor in the coming Kingdom of glory. They wanted prestige and power. Jesus’ Kingdom though is marked by servanthood and humility. He ascended to His throne of glory by way of torture and shame and ultimately, by way of the cross before His resurrection from the dead.
In his book, “The Spirituality of the Cross,” Gene Veith says, “I have heard that missionaries sometimes have a hard time explaining Jesus to followers of tribal faiths. “Our god is a great warrior,” they sometimes respond. “He would not let himself be killed like your Jesus.” The Theology of the Cross cuts against the grain of all natural religion, all of what we expect and want in a spiritual system. God manifested Himself, not as an abstract principle, but He came down from heaven. Not as sheer energy, but as a baby. He was born, in a rather scandalous way, of a poor virgin, not in a king’s palace, but in a stable for animals. Throughout His life, the Son of God emptied Himself of glory.”
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +