Thursday, June 4, 2009

Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Maid of Honor

Mark 10: 32a, NRSV, “They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.”

Imagine, you, a disciple and the scene of Jesus walking in front of you. He travels down the road and even though He is fully human, I still think that there might have been a lack of gravity in His steps. You look at his robe, and you knew that the mere touching of it held the power of healing. This was the One that was promised. What anticipation existed just walking by His side! You had even been given the power to heal in His name. Certainly, before Jesus, you could never have conceived of healing anyone. It makes your heart amazed just walking to Jerusalem behind Him.

Mark 10:32b-34, “He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”

Hmmm. There Jesus goes again with this. He told us about this before. As I recall our response was, Mark 9:32, NRSV, “But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. He keeps talking about it, so He must mean it. I will just sit on that information.

There is lots of grumbling going on amongst the twelve today. James and John appear to be in a deep discussion. They are always up to something. Oh, there they go. They are going to talk to Jesus. My mental picture looks so much better without them in it; I wish that they would just keep walking somewhere behind me. What in the world are they talking about?

Mark 10:35-41, NRSV, “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “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?” They replied, “We are able.” 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.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.

Ok, stop imagining. I just love this. James and John are human! Jesus chose them as some of His closest people on earth! We have a chance. Mark shows here what we all experience in the workplace, in churches, in the grocery store line. We want to be first. We want to be acknowledged. Sometimes when we ask to be more important, we don’t even know what we are signing up for. It is all about being bigger, badder and more. Don’t you want to be recognized? Well, you are not the first.

James and John walked up to Jesus and asked to sit with Him in heaven. That is so awesome. I have been talking about asking for big blessings, but that is so much more than I could think of on a good day. Jesus gently returns to the previous conversation and tells them that they have no idea what they are saying…they really don’t, right? Mark is always telling us how the disciples did not listen or understand what Jesus was saying. This is the pinnacle of that characterization.

At their insistence, Jesus allows them His fate. The disciples had horrible fates, martyrdom, persecution and exile. I wonder if that ever even occurred to the disciples. Mark portrays Jesus like a rock star, crowds everywhere. Did the disciples think that it would go on forever? Did they understand anything about what was coming? Only Jesus really knew that it was not like that at all. He knew where this road was leading. Can you just see His face when His friends ask this? I think that it was probably daunting for Jesus to think of His own fate, let alone the fate of His companions.

Back to the disciples being human…when the other guys caught on to what James and John were asking, they got mad. Why do you think that happened? I think that it is because they did not think of it first. I once heard a girl talk about the injustice of a bride asking all of her attendants to be bridesmaids. She said that within days all of the women were vying for position. They all wanted to prove themselves worthy of being the maid of honor, even if the title was not available. Pretty soon, every discussion led to a passive aggressive display of who knew the bride better. We all have this desire to be the favorite, the chosen one, the person of honor…the Beloved. So, some of the disciples missed out on their chance to carry the bigger bouquet.

Jesus took the bull by the horns and said in Mark 10:42-45, “So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

See, the same rules don’t apply in heaven. I have had many discussions on how my life would change if I continually kept an eternal perspective. This morning would have been different. I have been so fussy today. I had no idea what I would write about. I am not meeting any of my reading goals for the month. I was tired when I woke up. I just hate being tired when I wake up. I have no idea when I will slip exercise in again…ever. I don’t even want to do it in the first place. See, my life would be different if I had an eternal perspective.

Today, I found it comforting to know that Jesus is so aware of my faults, my humanity…my desire to be the maid of honor. He hung out with guys, who, on the way to His impending death, were worried about their promotion. I am that guy, worried about myself when He is calling me to sit with Him. I am constantly concerned with things that are not kingdom bound. I deserve a time out, but He gently tells me to switch my thoughts back to Him. That is what today has brought, and it is only beginning.

Thank you, Lord, for your unfailing love, for your steadfast and gentle nature. Let us take our minds off of the immediate today and place our thoughts in your kingdom.

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