Roger's Postings

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mark 10:35-45                        Suffering, servant hood????               21/10/12

 (35)  Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." {36} "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. {37} They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." {38} "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" {39} "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, {40} but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared." {41} When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. {42} Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. {43} Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, {44} and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. {45} For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

 The theme coming through in our readings this morning is the whole idea of suffering servant-hood. Yes, even my spell-checker on the computer has trouble accepting this concept. This thinking is so foreign and obnoxious to our present world’s thinking. Even we here, I am sure, do not like the idea that Jesus is trying to get across to us all when he says: whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. Servant hood and slavery are the furtherest we could think of from what we believe life is all about. Then to put suffering and the giving up of one’s life in the mix, that is surely the worst.

 Now, the temptation for us is to disengage: to switch of from thinking about this. Let us pretend that we didn’t hear this word this morning. Let us go and join another church that doesn’t talk about these things, but only that which is nice and easy to cope with. We want to hear the good stuff; the uplifting things; the things that make us feel good and which can make us look great in the eyes of the world around us. Yes we want the glory road.

However, we cannot and must not do this. Salvation and eternal life is at stake here. Jesus is very clear here and throughout that God’s view of life and salvation is completely opposite to the ways of our world’s thinking.

 I guess that is the whole point. We sinful human beings do not want to accept God’s ways and so we hold up the opposite view and try to persuade ourselves that this is the best way. In our rebellion against God we say that his ways are not good and ours are really what makes for life. Yet if we are truly honest about it, we have to recognise that our ways are absolutely disastrous for us; even from a worldly point of view.

 Just look at the world around us, and in just this one area of chasing after greatness and discarding servanthood, we can see quite clearly how this has throughout history brought untold misery on humanity. We see the friction, tension, and bloodshed this has had and still has, as a result of people seeking after greatness and authority over others. Just look at what is happening in politics in this country as we move further and further from the idea of service, to what is in it for me and how can we lord it over others.

 Think also as to what this shift in thinking has meant for our attitude to our work and even to our family relationships. Again and again we see the disastrous results of humanity seeking after authority and greatness in earthly terms. There are the immediate tensions in a relationship, just as there were amongst the disciples as James and John sought positions alongside Jesus. But that can then lead further and further down the path of disloyalty, friction, anarchy and bloodshed. This we are seeing over and over again on an increasing scale.

 Yet, despite the observance of these results, we continue as a society and as individuals to promote and seek after this self-promotion and self-aggrandisement. Our selfish, self-centred rebellion against God and his ways continues to push this thinking to the fore. As a result we are making life harder and harder for ourselves. Along with that it often seems to be that there is no way out for us: We are caught on a treadmill that we cannot get off of.

  However, Jesus reminds us of another way that is available to us. A way that draws people together, rather than drive them apart: a way that lifts and helps one another up, as well as ensuring us that we will be a part of true greatness. He says to us: whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

 Yes, that does not fit our thinking, but this is what God has in mind. And he knows what is good and beneficial. He surely knows what makes for true greatness. And he will have that ultimate say at the end, as to what is the correct view on these matters.

 So then, let us consider what Jesus has to say here: whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. So if we want to do something great and worthwhile then we need to be about serving one another: doing what is best for the other, rather than for self. Instead of putting ourselves over others, even if we are in leadership positions, we are to constantly be seeking to do what we can for the benefit of others. True greatness comes from this attitude of servant hood: True greatness comes giving our lives for the benefit of others. This we see as we look around us and note how the people who are truly lauded in our community are those who untiringly give their lives for the good of others. Here we think of people like Mother Teresa, or that eye doctor who went into those poor countries self-lessly doing all that good work. I am sure you can name others.

 Here Jesus does not just say to serve others, but he goes even further and says: whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. So here he go so far as to say that we are to put ourselves at the ‘beck and call’ of others. We see ourselves as last of all, and willingly to do what is need for the benefit others: willing to do what they want: willing to be their slave. Now there is a challenge to our thinking. Then in doing that he says we will be first. Then God looks at that as the very best of all.

 Now there is a radical call to our present day thinking. As much as we see glimpses of this in our world and the good that it really is, it is something we practically find very hard to come to terms with. Even though we can see how it could be so good, we struggle to do it because it goes against the grain of society and our sinful human condition.

This then is where that final sentence of Jesus’ is so critical for us. He said: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Think about that, God’s own Son came to earth to serve: To serve; not God, but us human beings. We who have rebelled and gone against God: we who all too often do not want do what he asks of us; including here, serving others. He came to serve us all, even those who have gone on and rejected him.

When he came to this earth he helped the poor, the sick and outcasts. He associated with the tax collectors and sinners. He did what was needed to be done for the demon-possessed, as well as for the self-righteous Pharisees. He came to serve us all.

And even more significantly, he gave his life as a ransom for many. He died for us all, voluntarily and willingly; all of us. He takes the punishment that we deserve on himself, so that we might be forgiven. Here I would encourage you to go home and read again the Old Testament reading that we had earlier from Isaiah 53:4-12. Hear again what Jesus would do for us all.
This same Jesus even now, comes to serve us; to help us now do what we are reluctant to do. In light of our baptisms, he now seeks to help us to do those things that are good and right for us to do. Through his Word and Holy Communion he is constantly seeking to encourage us to see that we can give of ourselves for the benefit of others: We will not go short ourselves, for we have already been given everything that we need for this life and the next. We will not go short of anything that is of true value.

So now we can go out and serve others; even being a slave to them and their real needs. We can go with Jesus Christ at our very side and do what he would have us do. We go with him who is the greatest and the first of all, to continue his work of serving those around about us. In so doing, may all glory and honour go to him whom it truly belongs; our great God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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