April 25, 2007

Mark 10.35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said, "Master, we should like you to do us a favor."

"What is it you want me to do?" he asked.

They answered, "Grant us the right to sit in state with you, one at your right and the other at your left."

Jesus said to them, "You do not understand what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptised with the baptism I am baptized with?"

"We can," they answered.

Jesus said, "The cup that I drink you shall drink, and the baptism I am baptized with shall be your baptism; but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant; it is for those to whom it has already been assigned."

When the other ten heard this, they were indignant with James and John. Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that in the world the recognized rulers lord it over their subjects, and their great men make them feel the weight of their authority. That is not the way with you; among you, whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the willing slave of all. For even the son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to surrender his life as a ransom for many."


At 4:52 a.m., Blogger david said...

I do see this as a reflection of the first/last discussion earlier. Indeed I think it is the same message as the first/last gnome.

Looking further afield: someplace in Isaiah: the mountains will be leveled and the valleys raised up -- crooked paths made straight.

In one sense we're talking about distributive justice. One aspect of the concept of justice is equality in some measure.

I another this is a prophetic trope: God's ways are NOT our ways, expect surprises, God's kingdom turns the world and its agendas on its head. Sometimes this is about justice. Sometimes its about reminding us who the Big Kahuna is.

At 9:39 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

Yes. And particularly a rejection of the worldly ideal of "success."

I see also an allusion to Jesus' annointment in "batized with the baptism I am 'baptized' with." The writer's contemporaries know what this is about--unless they're outsiders who don't understand yet that they're joining a subversive movement.

Jesus has had a remarkably short "ministy"; he is now on his way to Jerusalem although he "knows" (so far as a prophet knows, when the deed ain't done yet) what to expect there.

I haven't, by the way, found the scriptural passages that Jesus invokes (elsewhere) as predictions of his fate. If these were redacted in typical gospel-writer mode, that shouldn't surprise us; they knew how to stretch a passage to cover anything they wanted to find in it.

What there is, in the Torah, is a requirement for the King to periodically show up in the Temple. He's on the way, now, and this nonsense from his staff could be a real annoyance--if he didn't have real trouble on his mind.

At 11:17 p.m., Blogger Chris M. said...

Hi there! Just stopping by because I read Forrest's blog post today and remembered that he keeps encouraging people to stop by over here.

David: That would be the beginning of "deutero" Isaiah, no? Isaiah 40:3-4. Prepare ye the way of the Lord! (Think Godspell for a moment.) Indeed, preparing the way for the return of the exiles to Jerusalem; just as Jesus is preparing to enter the city, too.

I just read N.T. Wright's The Challenge of Jesus. See page 87: "The 'cup'... denotes suffering or even martyrdom, and in prophetic writings is frequently the cup of YHWH's wrath. The 'baptism' seems to refer to a fate that Jesus has still to suffer, to which the baptism of John, with its exodus-symbolism, would be the appropriate pointer. Jesus will share the fate of Israel so that the true exodus may come about."

The point of quoting Wright isn't so much about James and John, but about what the passage says about Jesus's ministry: That he was come to redeem Israel -- the light on the hill -- and to take on the exodus (redemption from slavery, entering the promised land) and temple functions (healing, forgiveness of sins, etc.) in His own person, and finally thereby to bring God's love and salvation to all peoplekind.

I'm sure I'm not doing Wright's thesis justice, but it's a fascinating and, to me, convincing point of view.

-- Chris M.

At 9:31 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

Yes, thanks for stopping by & please stay!

And now I'll chew into your comment--Well, actually we needed someone to bring in Isaiah and the purpose of grading all that road.

I even like NT Wright, a lot, sometimes, though I also think he cheats sometimes. I like it when he's forthright about Jesus being "the Messiah," not so much when he underwrites traditional Christian interpretations of what that means.

Although "King of Israel" does come to mean one who leads all peoplekind to enlightenment--which I do look forward to seeing--at this point he's just overwhelmed with responsibilities to those pesky chosen people. With the goyim acting only as clueless oppressors, despite a few stories that portray individual Romans recognizing Jesus as a sacred person.

How about the early image of Friends as "a chosen people"? I'm saying this, because I started off thinking of Friends as "shock troops for the (nonviolent) Kingdom" and every time I'd try to recall the group to some notion of "intended purpose" I'd run up against the gritty reality of them as loveable, but rather typical human beings. If we're a people, then we can include people who... are just being people. Old, infirm, afflicted with egos and automated tongues like all too many people. We don't have to be quite so typical, but our mission has to include serving as a refuge for people who come seeking only that. And then we need to head for the Jordan...

At 11:09 a.m., Blogger david said...

That's the problem with liberal religions ain't it? Offer them "preferential option for the poor" and you pretty much guarantee no poor folks showing up. Instaed you get a bunch of aging middleclass left wingers with nostalgia for the good old days of burning bras, flags and draft cards. If you really want the poor the lame and broken hearted tell them God favours the rich, and tehn encourages everyone to max out tehir charity donation tax credits.

At 8:56 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

True, alas.

But if a church has to get sentimental about the poor,' it just hasn't gotten Dorothy Day's realization that the poor is us.

Which comes down to, does your church break people's illusions and heal their afflictions, or does it exploit them, like the hypnotist-collector conversion-pushers that Chris Hedges talks about in http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/04/23/689/

The poor are a pain; so are a lot of the people we already have among us. And if we had more of the poor, we might have even more impaired people throwing their egos into the work. But maybe (I dunno!) that's just the way it should be, and whatever doesn't get done may not be as needed as we think.


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