Sometimes we need to speak up to get where we want to go. James and John do just that. They say point-blank to Jesus words to this effect, “Do something for us. We want to be your seatmates in glory.” A pretty bold move on their part. But they know what they want. James and John want to be in a different place, a different stature than they are in, and they are thinking ahead. There’s nothing wrong with asking for what you want or need. Most of the time, the worst that can happen is folks say no. But for James and John, the worst-case scenario is for someone (in this case, Jesus) to question their intention, motivation, and capacity. “You don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into. Can you handle what I’m about to do?” asks Jesus. Even after they reply affirmatively, Jesus says, “Okay. Drink my cup, be baptized in my baptism; but who sits next to me isn’t up to me. It might not be prepared for you.” Jesus’ glory comes with risk and danger through the symbols of cup and water.
James and John’s request is bold, to be sure. Yet as clunky and brash as their request seems, Jesus uses this opportunity to imagine a different world where power dynamics have shifted. He answers them, “I can’t make that decision. It’s not up to me.” It’s not a no, but it’s not a yes either.
Readers are often taken aback at James and John’s bluntness. But we could do well to take after them by saying, “This is where I want to go. Help me, Jesus.” We simply have to be ready for Jesus’ (non)answer and an unconventional path.
Holy One, may we glorify you. May we continue to say, “Yes, we are able” for whatever work you call us to do. Amen.
At this point in Job’s story, God has heard questions from Job and long-winded moralizing by three of Job’s friends, who have pronounced that his misfortunes are divine judgment. Now God has heard enough and declares that God’s perspective is superior to theirs. God has been there from the beginning, as the psalmist reiterates, so no one should claim to know God’s mind or speak on God’s behalf. Even Jesus, the divine Son of God, yields to his heavenly Father. Hebrews tells us that Jesus made appeals to God as the ultimate high priest and thereby became the source of salvation for those who obey him. In the Gospel reading, Jesus specifies that his approaching act of submission and service will allow him to become a ransom for us.
• Read Job 38:1-7, 34-41. How do you continue to see the goodness of God when you find yourself in situations of intense suffering?
• Read Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c. Where do you catch glimpses of God? How significant is God’s natural world in your ability to see the holy?
• Read Hebrews 5:1-10. In what ways does the understanding of Jesus’ willing vulnerability while serving as high priest affect your interactions with others?
• Read Mark 10:35-45. When have you made a bold request of God? What was God’s reply?
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