Inconthievable! Weekly Reflections 10-14-15

 Texts for Sunday October 18

 Isaiah 53:4-12
 Psalm 91:9-16
 Hebrews 5:1-10
 Mark 10:35-45

 “You keep using that word; 
I do not think it means what you think it means”
- Swordsman Inigo Montoya

As inconceivable as it may seem, my family members can recite most of The Princess Bride (movie) from memory. Our daily life is peppered with phrases from the movie. So it is no surprise that when I read this story of James and John asking to sit at Jesus’ side in his glory, the phrase above came to mind.

From last Sunday’s Gospel reading to this Sunday’s reading, we skip a section that sets the scene for this request from James and John. For the third time in Mark, Jesus tells his disciples that they are headed to Jerusalem and that what will happen there isn’t going to be pretty.

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.”

As with the other two times Jesus shares this, his disciples’ response indicate that they really don’t get what he is saying. It isn’t really a surprise to hear James and John asking their question. Additionally “the reader” (that’s you) sees all these scenes through the eyes of someone who already knows the ending. Jesus’ description seems spot on to us which makes the question from James and John seem foolish at best. Jesus answers (with an Inigo Montoya accent?) I do not think you know what you’ve just asked; were you listening just now? 

Hint: You want to know who is on Jesus right and left when this happens? Read Mark 15:27.

Predictably the rest of the disciples catch onto the conversation and protest, not the misunderstanding but rather the fact James and John asked first. So Jesus explains once again that things are not what they seem; the first will be last and the last first; you must be vulnerable in God’s kingdom; and you must be servant, even slave of all to be great.

Although I shake my head scornfully at the question from James and John and “tsk, tsk” at their foolishness, actually I don’t get it either. Or more honestly, I may get it, but prefer to pretend that I don’t. You don’t always see me pushing to be first in line (or is that last in line?) to shout out “Yes! I’m able!”  

Me? Servant? Slave? Inconceivable?

Then there is the first lesson from Isaiah. It is a part of the reading from Good Friday; there’s a clue for you. 

This text is a portion of one of four Servant Songs in Isaiah. These songs or poems describe someone who serves God with his/her whole life – “all in”, total commitment. This particular one describes a suffering servant. Early Christians recognized Jesus’ life in these passages and have used them as a part of their interpretation of Jesus over the years. Sometimes over the centuries, they have used them to make people suffer and justified that God wants them to suffer.  But other times they have reflected on what it actually says about God’s character.

 We believe that God through Jesus intentionally suffers with and for those who are broken, oppressed, and marginalized (vulnerable). First we need to recognize that describes us sometimes; we may not like that, but there you go. More importantly (and probably more often), we also need to recognize that we are those who break, who oppress, who live at the “center”. Jesus exposes the reality of evil – systemic and personal – and enters into that reality on the cross.

So to follow Jesus is to also enter into the suffering of those who are broken, oppressed and marginalized. It is to follow Jesus to the cross. Are you able? 

So what do you think? 
Why don’t the disciples hear what Jesus is saying about what will happen in Jerusalem?
Have you ever “not heard” what God is saying?
What happens if we are not able to do what Jesus’ asks of us? Are there options?

You can read these texts using the Oremus Bible Browser..

Check out the G.I.F.T. post for this Sunday, October 18, for more ways to reflect on these verses.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please use the comment section below.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245