XXII Pentecost

October 21, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

A few weeks ago in the gospel lesson, we read about Jesus’ disciples having a discussion as they walked along together.  Jesus asked them what the discussion was about, and they were afraid to answer Him.  They were afraid because they were discussing which one of them was the greatest. 

In that sermon I talked about power, and about how Jesus turns things upside down.  In that lesson, Jesus says “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 

This morning’s gospel lesson is only a chapter later than this story about power, and again two of the disciples seem to turn to the subject:

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to (Jesus), and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’  And he said to them, ‘What do 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.’”

To sit at the right and left hand of a ruler is to be the people who have the most power after the ruler.  This is why in the Creed we say that Jesus is “seated at the right hand of the Father”.  James and John want to revisit the subject of power.

Power is an interesting thing.  History has shown that once many people get in power they do not want to relinquish it. 

But still, after Jesus’ teaching that if someone wants to follow Him as a leader that they must be servant to all, James and John are asking to be seated at the right and left hand of Jesus when He comes into His glory.

This time, Jesus responds with an ominous question: 

"You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"

And they answer Jesus’ question with ease: "We are able."

But they do not know what they are asking.  They do not know what baptism Jesus is speaking about.  He is not speaking about the Baptism of John.  He is not speaking about their being baptized in water.  Jesus is speaking about His death.  He is speaking about the choice that He will make for us to die on the cross.

And yet, Jesus knows what their fate will be.  Because they choose to follow Him, their fate will be like His – death.  Martyrdom.  And He tells them so -- "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."

And then Jesus reiterates His teaching, which we read about a few weeks ago:

"You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men 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 the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

When we follow Jesus, we do not know what it is that we are asking for.  We may live a simple life.  We will most likely not have to give our lives as He did for us.  But in a thousand different ways, we will have to make simple choices to follow Him.  Sometimes those choices will be easy, but other times they may not.

By virtue of our baptism, we are called to live as Christ would have us live.  And this way of living is very different from the world.  It is a calling to serve.  It is a calling to remember the least of these.  And in living this way, we are not given a seat at the right hand or left of Jesus in His glory.  But we do know that if we choose to live the life we are intended to live in Christ, we will see Him in His glory.

As we quote from the Book of Job in the Burial liturgy: “
“I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.”  It is there that we will see Jesus in His glory.  AMEN.