By Ed Little
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 10:32-45
32 They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33saying, “See, 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; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
“I will take the Ring,” says Frodo, “though I do not know the way.” Frodo Baggins, unlikely hero of The Lord of the Rings, embarks on a perilous journey to Mordor and Mount Doom, a place of desolation and death, to destroy the One Ring and rescue the world from darkness. That scene comes to mind whenever I reflect on the opening lines of today’s gospel reading: “They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” As if to intensify their fear, Jesus adds a grim warning: “The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes . . . they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him,” with only one phrase to soften his words: “and after three days he will rise again.”
Christians often talk about discipleship as a “spiritual journey.” Jesus invites all of us to follow him, to move from point A to point B, to step out on an adventure. But the journey is perilous. “Do you renounce Satan . . . the evil powers of this world . . . all sinful desires?” (BCP, p. 302). A decision to follow Jesus is a decision to enter into conflict and danger.
Yes, Jesus promises us the gift of eternal life — a new quality of life here and now, and the assurance that we will rise with Jesus and be with him forever. Yes, Jesus promises us his abiding presence (Matt. 28:20). But Jesus promises the cross as well. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink,” Jesus asks James and John later in our reading, “or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” In other words, will you take up the cross? Will you die with me? Will you follow wherever I lead?
The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II was bishop of Northern Indiana for 16 years after serving parishes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin. He is the author of three books; most recently: The Heart of a Leader: St. Paul as Mentor, Model, and Encourager (2020).
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of North Ankole (Church of the Province of Uganda)
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Murfreesboro, Tenn.