In the verses just before this morning’s Gospel, Jesus has tried to explain to the apostles what is going to happen to him.“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.” It is sobering and painful to hear; and they are amazed and afraid. But it’s clear that they really don’t understand yet, they don’t realize who it is they’re following. And so this morning James and John ask to sit beside Jesus one on his right and the other at his left when he is throned in glory. Tragically the only enthronement Jesus is going to receive will be on a cross of agony and humiliation with a thief on his left and his right.
That’s why it’s always so embarrassing to hear those two naive, very ambitious apostles say a bit too enthusiastically that they are ready to drink the same cup as Jesus, undergo the same baptism. Their “confident but foolish” response: “Yes we can.” Certainly Jesus wants the disciples, all of us, to get caught up with enthusiasm in the dream of the kingdom, what it is, what it means. But the key is to become more and more fascinated with him and his way of doing things; and to want to go and do likewise. It is not about entitlement. Jesus has come to serve, not to be served. And these two apostles don’t seem to get that part yet. Like James and John we too are on the way, still growing in relationship with Jesus. There’s so much more he wants to explain to all of us.
Photographs by Brother Brian of the Abbey woodlands.