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Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 20:20–28
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (NRSV)
I must confess that upon first reading this passage I was caught up with this mother who is asking for favors for her two sons. In fact, in one Bible I consulted, the passage is headed The Request of the Mother of James and John. I became wound up in my thoughts about the appropriateness of her request: Is she a super-loving Mom, concerned about the welfare of her sons? Is she a Tiger Mom, advocating for her sons towards “success,” Helicopter Mom? Who does she think she is, anyway? As if that weren’t enough, the ten other disciples get angry with the two brothers, and the whole scene appears to disintegrate into squabbling.
Well, it turns out upon careful reading that the mom’s question provides an opening for Jesus to teach about what is coming, and he’s rather straightforward about it. He said to her, “You do not know what you are asking” (which reminded me of my mother, who sometimes would say, “Be careful what you wish for”) in a foreshadowing of the days to come.
Following Jesus is not “safe”—it wasn’t then and it isn’t now. To advocate for the poor, the disabled, those facing racism daily, the immigrant, and others as Jesus did is difficult work. Ist can be so difficult to keep going when facing prejudice, ignorance, lack of funding, family discord, and lack of civic will. So, the road to Glory is a difficult one as Jesus reminds us that “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Good and gracious God, help us to strive to be like Jesus, serving and seeking justice for the least among us even though the way is a difficult one. Help us to remember you walked this path before us and you walk it with us. Amen.
Written by Martha Brown, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
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