What We’re Getting Ourselves Into? (Mark 10:35-45)

We can only control our own violence… and our own love… by the grace of God.


“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

That’s an ominous question if ever there was one.

John and James want to share in Jesus’ glory, but little do they know what they are asking. The reality they are living through must be so disconnected from their expectations that they can’t even process what Jesus is telling them. After all, Jesus has just said he is going to be killed, but James and John are asking for key roles in his cabinet in a newly appointed kingdom after enemies are vanquished and Jesus and his followers come out “on top.”

That’s not going to happen. Jesus isn’t trying to come out on top of the world’s power structure; he’s overturning it completely.

Jesus’s glory isn’t a throne or a seat of power; it’s a cross. Complete solidarity with and compassion for the outcast and despised and demonized and criminalized means that Jesus will take his place among them. He will drink the cup of wrath that humanity pours out on those who challenge the powers of greed and empire, and be baptized into death and burial. Are James and John ready to follow in Jesus’ footsteps? Are we?

Jesus tells James and John that they will indeed drink the cup and be baptized with the baptism, but to sit at the right and left of Jesus isn’t up to him, but is for those “for whom it has been prepared.” Literally, two people will die on crosses on either side of Jesus. Who “prepares” them? The violent world prepares crosses and other terrible fates for people. Jesus is saying that the violence that happens to us when we follow him is beyond our control. We can’t control the violence of others. To transform a world of violence, we are called to transform our own violence and then live in such a way as to bring more love, more trust, more compassion into the world. We can only control our own violence… and our own love… by the grace of God. 

Finally, James and John seem to think there will be power and status on the other side of the ordeals they will follow Jesus into. But according to Jesus, those who would be great must become servants. God’s Kingdom, the Beloved Community, doesn’t have high-ranking officials, but mutual servants. It’s a place where we care for each other, not have others wait on us. After all, God in flesh came to earth not to be served, but to serve.

The Olive

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