Wishing to be great: ransom

serve-one-anotherServant and Slave. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

In these short verses, which in many ways parallels 9:35 (“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”), there is one difference that Stoffregen notes. In v.44 he/she will be a servant [diakonos] of you (plural, indicating the Twelve), while v.45 is he/she will be a slave [doulos] of all. This is not a distinction that Matthew makes in his parallel (Mt 20:26-27). Continue reading

Wishing to be great: Lord

serve-one-anotherAn Eager Response. They said to him, “We can.” 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; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

In response to their eager “We can” of v.39, Jesus divides the issue: You shall share in my cup, in my baptism, in my death. But it is up to someone else, my Father, to give out the seats of glory! (v. 40). The disciples have just been described as a fearful band following Jesus to Jerusalem, the confident assertion that they can share Jesus’ suffering must strike the reader as naive. However, Jesus predicts that they will share his suffering (v. 39), and, indeed, Acts 12:2 informs us that James was martyred in Jerusalem by Herod Agrippa (44 ce; Gal 2:9 suggests that John survived his brother). Jesus’ prophetic word was fulfilled. Continue reading

Wishing to be great: questioning

james-john-sons-of-zebedee35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 He replied, “What do you wish (me) to do for you?” 37 They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”

Asking Boldly. Even before the request is revealed, the very sound of the question seems brash: “whatever we ask.” It is as though they want a “blank check” from Jesus. Is it enthusiasm? Is it brazenness? Is it coming from a sense of “I deserve a reward for having followed you these many, many months?” Is it arising from a sense of “I have looked at the other 10 and we are the ones you should pick?” Hard to know, but in any event, Jesus simply asks them what they desire. Continue reading

Glorified: love

Christ-glorified

The Commandment to Love. 34 I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. 35 This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is the first of two instances (13:34; 15:12) in which Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another, but only on this occasion did he refer to it as a ‘new’ command. What is new about this commandment? It can refer to something that didn’t exist before. But the command to love one another is not recent. It is found in the Torah (Lev 19:18; Dt 6:4). It can refer to something that existed previously, but was not fully known or understood; e.g., a “new” understanding. I think that it is in this sense that this commandment is “new”. Continue reading

Glorified: Jesus departs

Christ-glorified

Jesus’ Departure. Referring again to his imminent departure, Jesus said to his disciples, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you” (v.33).

“My children (teknia)…” This term of endearment expresses Jesus’ love for his disciples and is a poignant introduction to his announcement that his departure is imminent. The term a little longer (eti mikron) is imprecise (cf. 7:33), so they could not be sure how soon this separation would take place, but given the announcement of the betrayal they might suspect that it would be very soon. Jesus seems to refer not just to the time of separation between his death and resurrection, but also to the time thereafter. For he says they will look for him, which they did not do after his death, but which they did do after the resurrection. Just as the first disciples sought him out (1:38), so will they continue to seek for him after his departure. Part of the purpose of the farewell discourse is to tell them of the new ways in which they will find him in the future. Continue reading

Glorified: God and Jesus

Christ-glorified

Our short text can be divided into three parts:

  • 31-32 – the glorification of God and Jesus
  • 33 – Jesus’ departure
  • 34-35 – the commandment to love.

The Glorification of God and Jesus. The immediate reference to Judas’ departure, like the coming of the Greeks (12:20-23), signals to Jesus that a new stage of the glorification has been reached. The betrayal has begun, and so “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” This verse and the following verse are particularly difficult to translate. The cross is itself the revelation of divine glory and the way for Jesus to share the divine life with his followers. It is also the way for God to glorify the Son in himself (v. 32), which he will do at once as Jesus returns to his presence (17:5). Just as Jesus’ keynote address focused on the relation between the Father and the Son (5:19-27), so also his farewell discourse begins from that same fundamental point. This relationship is central to this Gospel. Continue reading

Why He Came: ransom

serve-one-anotherServant and Slave. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; 44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.

In these short verses, which in many ways parallels 9:35 (“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”), there is one difference that Stoffregen notes. In v.44 he/she will be a servant [diakonos] of you (plural, indicating the Twelve), while v.45 is he/she will be a slave [doulos] of all. This is not a distinction that Matthew makes in his parallel (Mt 20:26-27). Continue reading

Why He Came: Lord

serve-one-anotherAn Eager Response. They said to him, “We can.” 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; 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

In response to their eager “We can” of v.39, Jesus divides the issue: You shall share in my cup, in my baptism, in my death. But it is up to someone else, my Father, to give out the seats of glory! (v. 40). The disciples have just been described as a fearful band following Jesus to Jerusalem, the confident assertion that they can share Jesus’ suffering must strike the reader as naive. However, Jesus predicts that they will share his suffering (v. 39), and, indeed, Acts 12:2 informs us that James was martyred in Jerusalem by Herod Agrippa (44 ce; Gal 2:9 suggests that John survived his brother). Jesus’ prophetic word was fulfilled. Continue reading

Why He Came: questioning

james-john-sons-of-zebedee35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 He replied, “What do you wish (me) to do for you?” 37 They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”

Asking Boldly. Even before the request is revealed, the very sound of the question seems brash: “whatever we ask.” It is as though they want a “blank check” from Jesus. Is it enthusiasm? Is it brazenness? Is it coming from a sense of “I deserve a reward for having followed you these many, many months?” Is it arising from a sense of “I have looked at the other 10 and we are the ones you should pick?” Hard to know, but in any event, Jesus simply asks them what they desire. Continue reading