I think James and John are rather presumptuous by telling Jesus we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Jesus asks: “What do you wish for me to do?” They answer: “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at you left” Jesus replies “you do not know what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup I am about to drink or be baptized with the baptism in which I am to be baptized? Jesus is asking them if they’re willing to suffer as he is going to suffer - to which they respond they are: Jesus confirms they will drink of the cup of suffering - he is to suffer but to sit at his right or his left is not his to give - but for those for whom it has been prepared.
He then gathers his disciples to tell them this kind of competition can not happen among them but that they need to become servants. We read in scripture - James and john are with Jesus during many of the pivotal moments in his ministry - the rising of Jairus daughter, the transfiguration and the agony of the garden. This is to prepare them for suffering - not for a prominent place in the kingdom
We read in Isaiah 11: the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb and the leopard shall lie with the goat and the calf and young lion shall browse together and a little child shall lead them. God sees the innocence of a child and puts him in charge. There is so much competitiveness in our society among adults and - the desire for power and recognition seems to dominate our world.
Jesus sees this happening among his Disciples and reminds them:
You know those who are recognized as rulers over the gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority felt It shall not be that way among you. Rather whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life for the ransom of many. It seems after all the time - Jesus spent with his disciples they still don’t get what their mission is about - to lead others to God - their focus can’t be on themselves but on God and his people. An expression comes to mind as it seems - we want to put the cart before the horse or for the Christian - we want to enjoy the glory of salvation - before we endure the cross.
Few of us seem to understand our need to serve or the importance of making sacrifices for others our only concern seems to be for our own well-being. We are called to be servants.
I remember reading a few years ago about a 14 year old boy who I will refer to as Joey - who had an attitude problem. He’d boss his brothers and sister around and when asked by his mother - to do something - he wouldn’t do it but would just sit around because after all he didn’t ask to be born. When his father got home, he started to talk back to him. After witnessing his bad behavior his dad told him to get a bottle of water, an apple and get in car. His dad drove to the country a great distance from home, dropped him off and said he’d be back in the evening. Joey was fuming threw down the few items he brought with him and started walking home but soon realized he’s too far from home - and went back to the area - he was dropped off at - and started thinking.
That afternoon a new experience happened for him. He was thinking about life and its meaning and purpose and he started to look at his priorities and he wasn’t focused on himself any more. When his dad came back for him, he didn’t say a word but just got in the car. Upon arriving home he quietly went into his room. It was days later before he told his dad the time away made him look at his life differently. He wanted some meaning in his life and this led him to a kind of self-evaluation. This eventually led him to the priesthood. Years later he shared this story with friends and told them how he makes an annual trip back to this place - that he felt helped him re-evaluate his life.
Catherine Doherty in her book "Poustinia" which she refers to as - encountering God asked why God give us freedom, she then responds because he wanted us to love freely. She states he loved us deeply - because he created us. The act of creation - is an act of love. she says - he extended his love further than creation, when he sent his son as a holocaust for us, a suffering servant for us. He became a bridge or a kind of restorer for us when we misuse our freedom. You and I are given a free will to choose freely what God wants us to choose - to do his will. Catherine realized she has the power to say no or yes to God because she was created in his image and likeness. She states that sin is when we separate ourselves from God and don’t choose to do his will but our own will. It is when we turn our back on God. Sin puts chains on our freedom - even though we were given the freedom to say no. She then stated: “if I say yes to God I find myself walking on some kind of sunrise, and that it was during her pilgrimage toward God that drew her out of the darkness into this light - and that - whenever we say yes to God - we are truly free and that this is when - we become one with the creator. We are in door county where we make many pilgrimages - but what about our pilgrimage toward the kingdom of heaven Jesus wants his apostles to become one with him by choosing to be truly free by seeking to follow his will by serving as he served rather than seeking to be served.
Catherine Doherty said that at the heart of Poustinia is freedom. It’s when our freedom of action - is directed by our love for God. She tells us that how much we really love God is determined by our willingness to serve him and that we need to ask ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice for him and how much we are willing to give up for him. Our life is not about us but about how much we are willing to give of ourselves - to God and to others.
The evil one is going to conspire to convince us to do otherwise. He wants to convince us that whatever we want to do is okay and what we chose to do in this life should not bother anyone, well it better bother us. Separation from God our creator and our redeemer is not okay. We don’t want to be cut off from him just for the pleasures of this world but we want to be united with him and our brothers and sisters for all eternity. Nothing short of that’s good enough. Total freedom comes from our love for God and from God’s love for us. He’s the one who gives freedom. If you are wondering what you should do, consult your heart. Your answer is in God not in some stranger who doesn’t even know him. Because God has given us this freedom, we have to listen to his voice and we have to be obedient to it if we want to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ
When I was ordained. I promised obedience to my Bishop. I remember being called in to meet with Bishop Banks when I was pastor at Holy Trinity in Casco. He told me he wanted to transfer me to St Peter and Paul in Green Bay but then said that I didn’t have to move this time but if I chose not to he would probably have to move me the following year. I remember driving back to the parish saying all the way home I’m not moving until I drove into my driveway and realized I have to move because it wasn’t the bishop who was moving me but it was God moving me. I had to listen to his voice and be obedient to it. Jesus told James and John that they had to be obedient to him if they wanted to be his followers. That meant they could not let their authority be known but they had to serve his people and give their life for them and not be served We must be like little children who simply love. God teaches us to love in so many different ways but most importantly we need to love him - for him and for - the freedom he gave us.
I don’t know if you ever spent time in some deserted place by yourself as joey had. If not seek one out. Make “away time” with God. Learn how to love the one who created you. Learn how to love and be loved. If we truly love from the depths of our heart we will know how to serve. Oftentimes it’s no more than just by being present to someone. If you love as Jesus loves you will not only change but you will change the world -