Faith, Fellowship and Fun

Mark 10:35045 pdf version here
Mark 10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
Mark 10:41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be Airst among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
To appreciate what unfolds here it is important to remember that in the two chapters before this Jesus has consistently challenged his disciples with the core values of the kingdom. So it is with that backdrop that James and John come looking for special status in Jesus’ future glory. The extent of their complete incomprehension is baffling but Jesus shows great patience with them and points out that they will indeed share his future but the glory they seek is not his to give. It would be heartening to think that they other ten were annoyed with James and John for the folly of their question but it might be more realistic to believe their concern was that they might have been upstaged by the other two. So when Jesus gathers them around him it is to tell them once again that in the kingdom of God the exercise of power bears no resemblance to what takes place in the world around them. True greatness lies in service and their model for this is Jesus himself.

SEAN GOAN—Let the Reader Understand.
The way of services the most effective antidote against the disease of seeking first place; it is the medicine for status seekers, this seeking first place, which infects many and does not even spare Christians, the people of God, or even ecclesiastical hierarchy. Therefore as disciples of Christ, let us receive this call to conversion in order to witness with courage and generosity to a Church that bows at the feet of the least, in order to serve them in love and simplicity.
POPE FRANCIS—Angelus (21.10.18)
On the road to Jerusalem Jesus keeps warning his disciples of the painful destiny that awaits him and those who follow in his footsteps. The lack of awareness to those who accompany him is astounding. It is the same with us today. James and John want to be leaders in Jesus’ project. Their request is not an appeal. It is naked ridiculous ambition. The other ten are up in arms against them, for they also had the same aspirations as these two.
There is nothing more opposed to the Spirit of Jesus and his plan to further the freedom of people than blatantly striving for power. In the church of Jesus, greatness is not measured by the power you command, the position you hold, or the titles of which you boast. Whoever aspires to these things in the church of Jesus, does not become great, but only more insignificant and ridiculous. In fact, it is an obstacle to promoting the way of life Jesus demonstrates in his crucifixion. That person lacks a fundamental characteristic of a follower of Jesus.
In the church of Jesus we all must learn to be servants. Jesus does not want a top-down power structure in the Christian community, with a controlling leadership enjoying superiority, but instead he wants a leadership focused only on availability, service and help to others. Jesus is our model. He does not live “to be served, but to serve”. The word that best sums up what Jesus indeed practised is: service.
JOSÉ A PAGOLA—Following in the Footsteps of Jesus, Year B
The teaching of this passage is and always was something of a challenge to the members of the church who are in leadership positions. As usual, Mark locates the teaching as a response to the prediction of Jesus’ death and resurrection and that remains the literary context. At the Markan level, the social context, however, is likely to be the emergence, even in the early church, of styles of leadership at variance with the practice and teaching of Jesus. Mark, in response, makes an explicit link between leadership in the church and the mission and destiny of Jesus. It is very likely that this scene is substantially historical, for two reasons. First of all, the later version in Matthew “protects” the reputation of James and John by portraying their mother as making the embarrassing request!? In other words the early church was uncomfortable with such an unflattering portrait of significant apostles. Secondly, it portrays Jesus as not being able to do something. The tendency of the New Testament as a whole is to increase the power and authority of Jesus. Any story bucking that trend is also likely to be historical. Thought for the day As such, ambition is not quite neutral. We are called to be ambitious, that is, to use our gifts, to inhabit our strengths, to be of real service. St Paul says, be ambitious for the higher gifts. It is not that ambition as such is harmful; however, in the common experience, ambition can be destructively egocentric and based on distorted motivation.
  1. Jesus had spent much time teaching his followers that discipleship was a life of service, a life of giving oneself for
    others. In spite of that James and John were thinking of what they could get out of it. For Jesus, for the apostles, and for each one of us, the glory of God is revealed when we allow God to work through us as we give ourselves for others. When have you found that you reach a fuller life, and others benefit, when you act in this spirit of service?
  2. One of the great problems in a community, a parish, or an organisation, is when you have some people jockeying for status and positions of power. The good of the group and the people it serves take second place to personal prestige. You have probably seen this happen. Perhaps you have also witnessed people with a spirit of service that allowed them to value the good of the group over personal rewards. Recall them and give thanks for their witness.
  3. Jesus himself is the great model of this spirit of service. Think of the aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry that have inspired you to imitate his giving of his life for others.
Textual comments Michel de Verteuil (Lectio Divina on the Sunday Gospels)
The dialogue with the sons of Zebedee is very dramatic, with plenty of significant details. As usual with gospel stories, fee free to focus either on Jesus or on the people who come to him.
James and John are typical of young, enthusiastic followers of any cause – very ambitious, but also very committed and ready for everything. Note how they are confident: they can accept the challenges, even if they do not see clearly what they entail.
The portrayal of Jesus is very touching: his respect for the young men, the way he takes them seriously, the way he challenges them and reassures them simultaneously. His humility is remarkable as he disclaims the authority to give final rewards. As in last week’s passage, Jesus is the model for civil as well as religious leaders, and the two brothers can be the church community or the nation.
Verse 45 is very deep and can be read by itself. Enter into the metaphor of the ransom, asking yourself how this ancient practice of buying back slaves is lived today when people give themselves to the work of human liberation, with the life of Jesus as the model. Scriptural Reflection Lord, we remember with gratitude the spiritual journey we have made. At first we were like the sons of Zebedee, very anxious to become loyal and to do great things for you. Truly we did not know what we were asking. You did not reject us, but rather guided us gently,
  • -  some of us through prayer and bible reading;

  • -  others through a guide who was Jesus for us.

    You made us understand that spiritual growth is setting out on the path of Jesus, drinking whatever cup of suffering you send us, and entering deep waters as he did.

    As the challenge came, we said “Yes”, and you certainly took us at our word.

    Today we find that we are not interested in success of any kind, and we leave that to you to allot to whoever you will.