Sermon on Mark 10:35-45
So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’ve got a lot of parents of preschoolers in the room today. And, any parent of a preschooler—anyone who’s raised a preschooler—really anyone who’s been around a preschooler knows that they are full of questions.
They start of sort of simple—What’s that? Can I have it? What’s that called? Why? Why? Why?
Then there’s the more technical and difficult to answer: Why is the sky blue? Why does it rain?
They get into this grand, existential almost absurdist territory: For example, one I got recently: How did God hang my skin on my body?
And finally, as the child gets older and a little more self-aware, we arrive at the loaded question, the ones that are fully intended to manipulate you into giving them what they want: How about one more episode of TV? Why can’t I just have ice cream for breakfast? I don’t really need to go to bed now, do I?
That phase really doesn’t really go away. I mean, adults know full well that if you ask the right questions in the right way, you just might get what you want.
Witness today’s reading: James and John slide this question into some conversation with Jesus: “Hey JC, when we all get to heaven, how about we sit beside you in glory?”
Look, this is a pretty bold question, but not altogether unreasonable.
After all, these guys have been following Jesus around for a while now, and they seem to be getting the hang of it, and so why not get a little piece of the savior pie?
Except, James and John don’t seem to be the sharpest knives in the drawer because they ask it within earshot of all the other disciples. And they’re all just standing there like, ummm, James? John? Hello?
Now, Jesus could have responded in a lot of different ways here: He could have made them feel rather silly and small, “What a D-U-M-B question, guys!” He could have scolded them: “How dare you ask such a thing!”
But instead, he responds, almost like a loving parent: “You don’t know what you’re asking. You don’t know what I’m in for. You don’t know the cup I have to drink. The death I have to die.”
Despite their insistence otherwise, they don’t really want that. They can’t handle it. They don’t have what it takes.
James and John, they do what we all so often do when we’re in over our heads: They bluff. They fake it. They puff their chests out and say “Oh yeah, I can take it. I can do it. No problem.”
But they know in their heart of hearts it’s not true.
How many times have we been there too? How many times as a parent have I felt that way. I mean, it really starts from day one when you’ve got that tiny little creature in your arms and you realize its totally dependent on you and you think to yourself, “I don’t have what it takes.”
And maybe we’ve felt that when we’ve been asked to care for a parent or a spouse or a friend or even a pet or really anything where we’re asked to sacrifice, and give and give and give, and pour our hearts out for them.
Sure it may seem easy from the outside, and maybe we even seek it out and want it. But we don’t know what we’re asking for.
I think that’s why we bluff and puff and ask to sit in glory. We are seeking power. Because if we have power, then maybe we won’t feel so inadequate. The power to control things. The power to avoid things—disappointment, betrayal, maybe even death.
That’s certainly what John and James wanted.
But Jesus doesn’t give them that type of power because he knows that’s not what’s good for them. That’s not going to sustain them.
Jesus does something so interesting and so unnatural. He gives up his power. “I came here not to be served,” he says, “but to serve. To give my life as ransom for you.”
Power is turned upside-down. Not power for one, but power (actually, maybe it’s weakness) for all.
Jesus’ promise assures that even though we fall short, even though we don’t measure up, even though we can’t take it…in God’s eyes, we are enough.
You. Me. Each and every one of us…in the eyes of the world, we’re not enough.
But not to God. To God you are enough.
For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.
You are enough. And God loves you.
Can it be so simple? Can it be as simple as those words we just heard sung?
Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong.
They are weak but he is strong.
It’s quite profound and deep and confusing and strange and not the way the world works. But it actually is that simple. Jesus came to us, Jesus is amidst us, so that each and every one of us may know that we are loved. Even when we’re at our worst, even when we do horrible things, even when we fail and fall short…we are loved. We are enough.
And so we are set free to turn that love to others, so they may know it too. To become the servants of others, not just to be served.
That’s not something that I can do alone. That’s not something that you or your parents or two misguided disciples or anybody else can offer. That’s what God does.
The first and the last. The lord and the servant. The one who loves us always. There’s no question about it.