“We are all Duh-sciples”
October 18, 2009
The title of my sermon this morning is “We are all Duh-sciples,” and my sermon text is a familiar text to this congregation, Mark 10:45 which says “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many”
In the chapters right before today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells the disciples three separate times that the Son of Man is going to be arrested, killed, and then three days later be raised from the dead. This occurs in Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33, which all fall within the important middle part of the Gospel of Mark, where the mystery of Jesus as the Messiah is revealed to the community. However, the disciples do not understand what Jesus is trying to tell them any of the three times. Instead, the disciples focus only on their desires, their futures, and getting glory for themselves. Hence, my professor for Gospels last year calls them the duh-sciples.
In today’s gospel text, we read the disciples’ response to the third of these passion predictions. It starts with James and John saying “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” When I read this, I envision Jesus as a frustrated parent composing himself before responding to yet another ridiculous childish request. It is obvious that the duh-sciples still do not understand what Jesus is going do for them through his death and resurrection since they are asking him for something in addition to eternal life. I can just see Jesus pause, let out a big sigh, and hang his head while thinking to himself “they are never going to get this, are they?” but then he puts on his best pastoral face to respond with “what is it you want me to do for you?” By asking to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands, James and John are asking for the best seats in the place, which would come with tons of glory and honor. The disciples think that they know exactly what they need and that they are themselves able to do whatever is necessary to get it, namely drink the cup that Jesus drinks and be baptized with the baptism that Jesus is baptized with, but they are greatly mistaken.
The rest of the disciples get mad at James and John for asking this of Jesus. However, this anger is just jealousy, since it was only one chapter before this that all of the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest.
But can we really blame the disciples? Don’t we do the same kind of thing today? Just like Jesus told the duh-sciples over and over and over again that he was going to die and be raised on the third day, we too have heard that story time and time again. But like the disciples we don’t always act in a way that makes it look like we remember what that means. For example:
we want to be rich and famous
we gossip about each other
we cheat to get ahead
we bully one another
we insist that things be done our way
we dress a certain way so that we will be noticed
we exclude people so that we will feel like the “in-crowd”
we try to outdo our classmates and coworkers so that we get praise
…the list goes on and on.
It is not that things like having nice clothes or being a celebrity are inherently bad, but when we put them above God, and forget about the gift that we receive because of Christ’s death and resurrection then we lose sight of what is important. These selfish desires become the priorities of our life. In these ways, we put ourselves above God. We do exactly what the duh-sciples do. We forget the centrality of the Gospel, and we end up arguing about who is better and trying to attain more honor, glory, and praise for ourselves. But thank goodness, even when we and the disciples stumble, God does not forget about us.
Hebrews 5:1-10, the epistle reading that goes with today’s gospel, describes Jesus as the reigning high priest. He has the same job description as the high priests from ancient Israel, starting with Aaron, except that Jesus has been perfected by his obedience to God through suffering. He has been appointed by God to offer “requests and supplications” on behalf of the whole community, and consequently is “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” By doing this, God glorified Jesus; “Christ did not glorify himself.”
Although Jesus has been set apart as the Son of Man, he does not “lord it over” humanity as the “rulers” and the “great ones” do according to Mark 10:42. Jesus instead sets up a different way for the disciples to live, a reversal of roles. He demonstrates on the cross, that those who “wish be become great…must be a servant” and “whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” This is the heart of what Martin Luther calls the theology of the Cross. The glory of God is revealed in last place one would expect to find it, a Roman execution device, on the cross. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Every Sunday when this community gathers for worship and every Wednesday when we gather for Bible study, we remind ourselves and each other of this important aspect of the Gospel. It is a good thing that this passage is kept so alive here at Mediator. Just as the disciples needed to be told over and over again, we too need to be reminded often. We need to continue to proclaim the good news in all we do, so that we remember that although we are sinful, sometimes forget what is important, and try to gain glory over one another, Jesus came to earth to die so that we all may have eternal life.
So say it with me…Mediator is the church with “the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5): we come not to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45) and that we are the church where “salvation is free (Ephesians 2:8-9), but discipleship costs everything” (Luke 14:33). Amen.