Closing out this post has proven an exercise in endurance. I started this thought-flow back in January and almost crossed the finish line a couple weeks ago, but pulled up with a mental charley horse a hundred yards from the tape, but some down time and a few well-engineered distractions has sufficiently rested me for the big finish.
What say we finish out this bad boy today, shall we?
I won’t recap here; you can find an adequate one in the very last post which should catch you up to speed.
So, then…our generation’s Lordly challenge? What Gospel yoke must we wear? Which Jesus-to-His-disciples question are we being called on (out?) to answer?
The very one posed to two brothers of the Twelve. No, not Peter and Andrew. The other pair. The, ahem, ‘sons of thunder’: James the future head elder of the mega-church at Jerusalem, and his younger brother John, Asia Minor’s bishop-in-waiting.
Two of the gospels mention this narrative. One gospeler says their mother precipitated the conversation in question, another says the boys did. Rather than jumping to an Aha! Gotcha! charge of Bible contradiction, the Occam’s Razor solution is that both are true. Matthew (20:20) focuses on Mom, who we’re pretty sure was Salome, Mary’s sister, while John Mark (10:35) puts it all on the siblings.
The story goes:
The Twelve are marching ever closer to Ground Zero Jerusalem, the site where it all goes down. Everything that matters for the rescue operation of the human race will happen on that Judean citadel. Jesus has pointedly reminded His men – THREE SEPARATE TIMES (Matt 16, 17 and 20) – He was on a death march. They were still loathe to understand. It was still etched firmly in the granite of their hard-headedness that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to stage a heaven-backed coup and they were going to enjoin the heaven-sized takeover. To them, it was the glory days of David taking Jerusalem all over again. Minimal loss, maximum gain. This time for good.
That’s why we keep hearing the band of brothers arguing and cajoling each other about rankings and importance.
Let’s get this matter resolved now, gents, so there won’t be any confusion when the dust settles, or so they thought.
Jesus isn’t oblivious to this nonsense. For three straight chapters (18,19 and 20), He’s had to deal with their tripe. Sometimes He lets it go, other times He meets it head-on. This was one of those times when the Good Shepherd had to steer a wandering sheep or two – or three – away from a precipitous fall.
Hey, Jesus, when Kingdom comes, we’d – me and my bro here – would like to be Your right and left hands at the Big Round Table. Could you make that happen? Pretty please?
Jesus, typically, answers a dumb question with one of His own.
Can you indeed pay the retail price for such an undertaking? Can you handle what I’m about to do?
They’re still in David-as-conqueror-of-Jerusalem-mode (2 Sam 5:6,7) and can’t wait to see Jebusites (Herodians et al) fall under the Hammer of God, Philistines (Romans) driven out with tails tucked, and Ish-bosheths (Herod) displaced for good. They’re this David’s Abners and Joabs and Abishais. His Mighty Men.
This is beginning to sound familiar to me.
I think today’s church likes to flex and pledge and posture and challenge – but I don’t think the American church has any clue about what’s getting ready to hit it. A sizeable portion is looking for a rapture to whisk them away to glory and they’ll not have to face tribulation at all. Like Hezekiah, this tribe is thinking “as long as I don’t have to see it in my lifetime, I’m good.”
Another growing portion is into Dominion Theology, believing the Church will grow in influence until she eventually works through the dough of all culture and vanquishes all evil from the earth.
I’m of the stripe who believes Jesus is indeed returning for a spotless Bride, a Church Triumphant, but that she will find it necessary to go through the fiery hot press of tribulation to iron out her many wrinkles, purify her, make her one, and prepare her for her Wedding Day to Christ her Lord.
We say we’re ready and able for Jesus and Kingdom and heaven, but I wonder if all we’re really ready for is a deflection by Jesus, a sermon, the same sermon these cousins of the Master got, and, presumably, the rest of the Twelve who were nearby and overheard the presumptuous conversation which exposed their hearts too.
Jesus told them three things:
- you’re not ready
- in time you will be ready
- here’s why you’re not ready
Their readiness has less to do with their courage and good intentions than it does with their undying penchant to travel first-class, even at the expense of their brothers.
I mean, what was Salome thinking??? (Matt 20:21)
Did she not see that her motherly, doting query would pit everyone against each other? Not only her boys over against the others – but the brothers against themselves!!! In all things royal, the right hand of the king was considered the stronger. The left hand, while superior to the elbows and feet, was still inferior to the right hand! Which son would she put where for heaven’s sake?
Our ire might have an uptick over this but – and you’re already ahead of me – is this not where we find ourselves? We like our celebrities, our titles, our prestige, our creature comforts. We know it’s a narrow road but why not travel in style?
Can you accept My baptism?
Can you lay down your lives for your friends? Can you fight for the bottom rung?
This is what He’s asking.
When we are done with Gentile values (verse 25) and embrace the virtues of the Kingdom – when we are ready to voluntarily esteem our spiritual siblings as better than us, jettison our judgments and unforgivenesses, and become the answer to our Savior’s prayer in the Garden (John 17:20-23) – great, great, great will be our reward in Kingdom come. And in Kingdom now.
This, I’m afraid – this – is the question our generation must answer.
And…that’s a wrap.