First drops

Sitting under the Word of God in a conference centre not too far from here for a twenty-four hour away time, Hugh Palmer shared his reflections from Mark 10:32-45. The following is what I remember with a bit of my own turn of phrase thrown in.

Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

The Request of James and JohnThen James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

Hugh puts it to us that we travel faster alone but further together. Together is advocated.

A servant-ministry is not doing necessarily what people want, though, and this is important. If Jesus had simply done what the people, his following wanted, he wouldn't have gone to the cross - this was not the rescue that they had been anticipating. Therefore in stepping forward in ministry there is a degree, more than a degree, of pain.

With the coverage of the Charlie Hebdo incident there are parallels that can be drawn. Perhaps it is more accurate to say 'I am of Jesus' than 'I am Jesus' - the latter perhaps speaks of a Messianic syndrome. The former reminds us that Jesus was accused of blasphemy, that Jesus didn't take life but gave his life and as he did so prayed 'Father forgive them, they know not what they do.' And here we have Jesus predicting his very death, and even a third time and it is still something that the disciples can not hear: this suffering, an unanticipated partner to Glory, like that couple in love who seem not quite to fit and yet they do.

Jesus isn't unaware of what lies ahead, this suffering, this stepping forward into pain. His repetition of what 'they will' do to him underlines the point and yet even with such frequent statement, it is yet to be grasped. Deaf to this then as we are today. If the death and the resurrection of Jesus are not central to our faith, then we are indeed deaf too. With Christmas having just passed, there is that desire indeed to stay with the tinsel for a little while, to rightly focus on the incarnation but the wood of a manger does indeed point us to the wood of the cross, if we do not handle our sinfulness as we travel Advent, we are not really able to comprehend our need of a Saviour. Jesus the examplar is indeed an insufficient Saviour, the Christ - a once sufficient sacrifice and oblation for the sins of the whole world is satisfactory indeed. The cross must always shape our heart attitudes.

To what are we deaf?

Can we hear about the cross?

And then the audacity, but we can be audacious too - James and John are after a favour and now, when He tells them of his imminent death!

They are taken over by dreams of glory whilst Jesus' mind is on Calvary.

Similarly we can muddle a belief in God for a belief in our agenda in God. We can fall into trusting the god of our agenda above the true God made known in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Glory and suffering really are inextricably together as sometimes odd couples inevitably are.

Jesus' answer:' Do you know what you are asking for?' He doesn't rebuke, he invites them into a deeper understanding - he wants them to think about what they are really asking. This baptism is also into death. This is Discipleship-road and they need to get real. These guys think they can drink the cup, complete their earthly lives in a blaze of Glory: the martyrs' death. Sometimes the glamour of this can appeal, just for a moment, the drama of the last drop of blood. Instead what is called for is the first drop and all the tiny drops after that. This is the stuff of heart-attitude.

When Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian nationalist, issued his proclamation before he embarked on a campaign to liberate Sicily (1860), he rallied the troops with

"I can find plenty of people who will give their last drop of blood. But not many who are so happy to give the first drop.

We are to be a 'first drops of blood people,' this is a metaphor for our heart-attitude, one little drop and many drops thereafter, this call to the difficulty of the journey.

The Glory is the promise but it is future not present, it is promise but unrealised yet in these in-between times. Glory and suffering are there in the pursuit of servant-hood. Glory comes through suffering.

Jesus reminds his disciple of the truth of discipleship. We are to rightly understand leadership - that authority is a means by which servanthood can be extended.

And why are James and John trying to get ahead, fixated on glory - because this is always the temptation. And why are the other disciples indignant? Perhaps because two amongst them were intent on getting ahead, purchasing tickets to the main event when they hadn't even known tickets were on sale yet!

There are no tickets.

There are so many cultural and worldly models for what leadership looks like. But rarely are they the way of the cross. The CEO has other things on his mind than waiting and suffering and the ekeing out of life, one drop at a time.

The worldly model doesn't talk of ransom. No payment we make can ever be enough we are reminded in Psalm 49. We share in Christ's suffering and then in His Glory because the ransom was one that he came to pay. And so perhaps the first thing we need to ask with those first drops of blood is not so much whether we are serving Christ but whether he is serving us - can we claim that righteousness that is ours in him that he secured through the cross for us - can we hear it and then claim it - have it be imputed?

In 33AD outside the city walls Jesus served you. He gave his very life so that you might have it eternally. In 1982 at All Saints, Cheadle Hulme and through the Prayer of Humble Access I accepted the Jesus who came to serve me, this Saviour dying on a cross for Rachel Marszalek who wasn't worthy even so much as to gather up the crumbs under his table and so it's a good thing my righteousness is in Him. The first drops of blood moments began.

To be continued... one drop at a time....

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