IN those day, Jesus took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to Him, saying, “Behold, 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, and they will mock Him, spit upon Him, flog Him, and kill Him. And after three days He will rise again.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Him and said to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What is it you want Me to do for you?” And they said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory.” 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?” 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, 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.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 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. But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be servant of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
There are three points I would like to focus on:
1. In our Bible Study discussions, which we do chapter by chapter, and verse by verse, hence we focus in on many details that are often overlooked, one of the things that jumps out is that Jesus explicitly told His disciples what will happen to Him. In fact, He did it three times. One of these, third and last prediction that Saint Mark notes in his Gospel account, is provided in the Gospel lesson above. "Behold, 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, and they will mock Him, spit upon Him, flog Him, and kill Him. And after three days He will rise again” (emphasis mine). It's like, how else could the Lord tell them what will happen? And He had to prepare them because there was a big chance that they would have lost all faith and hope, once they saw their Teacher hanging on the cross. As we know, they abandoned Him as it was, but had Jesus not prepared them, they wouldn't have been able to realize that everything that had happened to Him was "part of a plan," if you will. In a way, subconsciously they were prepared, even though consciously all of them very much betrayed the Lord and ran away.
If we think even for one minute that we would have acted differently in their place, then we are even more delusional than the apostles were. For example, we know what His death on the Cross led to, we know that He defeated death by His own death, and prepared the path of salvation for us. Yet, if we honestly had to answer, is our life a reflection of this knowledge? The disciple ran away, they kind of had an excuse - they didn't really fully realize what was going on. We know. So what is our excuse?
2. Be careful what you ask for. When James and John asked Jesus to be, basically, His number 2 and 3 after Him, they were going behind the backs of their friends and co-laborers. I think this story shows just how human James and John were, how very self-centered. Christ neither denies, nor accepts their request. He simply asks them whether they are ready for what they are asking for. They did indeed drink the cup that that Christ drank. James was the first apostle to be martyred for his faith, as he was beheaded by the decree of king Herod (Acts 12:2). His brother, John, who is also known as the Evangelist John, was the only apostle to be at the Cross as Christ was dying (John 19:26-27). Do not think it was not painful to see your Teacher, and all the hope He was promising, dying on the cross. Even though, John was not martyred for his faith, but he did outlive all the other apostles and died in exile on an island. Seclusion was also not an easy to thing. So yes, both of them fully drank the cup that they, unknowingly, asked for.
Their examples shows that we should ask God for, almost, anything we want. But we should also ask for wisdom to see His will, and strength to carry out what we ask for.
3. Humility leads to greatness. By greatness here I mean that eternal greatness that our soul longs for, that greatness that we can't fully achieve here, and that's why we sometimes trample each other to taste at least some kind of greatness, but all we get in this life is pain and misery, even when we reach "greatness." Our place is with the Lord, in His Kingdom, at His Throne. Subconsciously, perhaps, we realize it, but consciously we tend to be a bit too blind, so we create our own kingdoms, and build our own thrones. But it is all vain.
Truly great person is the one who is a willing servant of others.
Yours in Christ,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest