Deacon Paul's Reflections
Deacon Paul Russell
Read: Mark 10: 32-45
Mark presents us today with a stark contrast between Jesus' selfless, single-minded, commitment of love to the will of the Father and the disciples' more than somewhat self-interested tagging along behind him.
They are on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus knows that he is going to his death there. The disciples, "in a daze" and "apprehensive", know that something is up but have little clue really what this trip is all about. Jesus, leading the party ("walking on ahead of them"), stops to break the news, to the Twelve in particular: he is going to die at the hands of "the pagans" after being condemned to death by the "chief priests and the scribes". [He adds at the end that "after three days he will rise again", but that mysterious tailpiece may well not at that moment have registered with them.]
When, as Mark presents it, Jesus had previously forecast his death and resurrection (9:30-34) we were told that the disciples left that incomprehensible news on one side and instead moved on to a discussion (?) amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest. So there is a sort of precedent to what happens this time. Bold as brass, James and John this time clearly reckon that they should have the top seats (at whatever the glorious destination is that they are all heading for) and they ask Jesus, as a favour to them, to save the most honoured seats for them. Unsurprisingly, when the other ten hear this they are pretty put out ("indignant"). Cue for a lecture from Jesus about committed and selfless service, as opposed to self-interested nest-feathering.
It may be easy for us to take a "well, really!" attitude to that particular power-pursuing behaviour of the Apostles, but we are not immune from such behaviour and there are crucially important lessons for all of us in this story. The key is of course Jesus' concluding remark: "The Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Jesus on earth was at every moment intentionally, purposefully, set on serving the Father, in whatever choices presented themselves day by day. He was, if you like, the ultimate 'intentional disciple' of the Father; he had no other purpose in life than to serve the Father, whatever it would cost him. Our aim must be to be such 'intentional disciples' of Jesus, ultimately with no other purpose in life but to serve him, if we wish to be truly followers of him. The key there, of course, is that just as Jesus knew and was in relationship with the Father, so too we must seek to know and be in a personal relationship with Jesus.
"The Father and I are one", said Jesus. Led and enabled by his grace, we must aim to be in our own creaturely way one with him, our lives dedicated to serving him with loving, selfless and generous hearts in every moment and event of each day.