Matthew 20:17-28; Mark 10:32-45; Luke 18:31-34
The Contrast Between Jesus and His Disciples – and Us
Jesus knows that the time has come and he must go to Jerusalem. Mark says that he was “walking ahead of them,” such that his disciples were amazed and afraid. They knew that visits to Jerusalem never went well, and that Jesus had warned them about their next visit. And just then he turns around and warns them a third time in what had been a matter of just a few short weeks or months: We are going to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests who will condemn him and deliver him up to the Gentiles (Romans) who will mock, spit on, flog and otherwise shamefully treat him, and then crucify him. Then he will rise of the third day. The disciples understand none of this, partly because they can’t comprehend a crucified Messiah, and partly because, as Luke adds, “This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said,” indicating to me that a divine element was at work as well. Sometimes God graciously shields us from what our minds simply can’t handle at a particularly trying time.
Then Matthew and Mark relate something that so completely shows the difference yet again between his disciples and himself. (And we mustn’t be too hard on the disciples because they only mirror our own desire for vainglory.) James and John and their mother approach Jesus asking to sit on his right hand and his left in his glory. (One wonders if the boys would even argue over who gets the right hand and who the left.) Jesus responds that they have no idea what they are asking and then says, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They foolishly say, “We are able,” and Jesus affirms that one day they will, knowing that on that day they will both realize what that cup contains and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, drink it to the dregs. But at this precise moment, their request is filled with ignorance and egotism. The disciples hear of it and are indignant but not for the right reasons; after all, they each thought that those places were already reserved for themselves. Jesus then explains to them that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over the people; Jesus’ disciples do not. In the Kingdom, the greatest is the servant of all, and if they ever need an example, just look at the Son of Man (the greatest of all) who came “to give his life a ransom for many.”
We may shake our heads at how self-centered the disciples could be, especially after Jesus’ third warning of the suffering awaiting him in Jerusalem. May we remember our Lord’s suffering for us when we have dreams of glory, and may we remember that glory is Kingdom service.