Why do we stay?

Finding-the-NileAre you smarter than a 5th grader? OK, what is the longest river in the world? Gotta’ be the Nile River, right? It flows 1,700 miles from Khartoum, Sudan to the Mediterranean Sea – and that is just where the White and Blue Niles meet. You can follow the White Nile south to Lake Victoria bordering Uganda… and then the arguments begin on what is the source of any river. Clearly rivers, streams, and the like flow into Lake Victoria – do you get to keep following the water flow? Even as recently as 2006 the geographers and cartographers were seeking the “headwaters of the Nile River.” The most recent claim is a muddy hole in Nyungwe Forest in southwest Rwanda. The forest area is spectacular, the muddy hole not so much. Personally, I would have taken Lake Victoria as the headwater. Think about it: a great lake giving greatness to the greatest river. Continue reading

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: cup and baptism

serve-one-anotherJesus Responds. It would be good to know Jesus’ tone of voice when he responds. Is it exasperation caused by their continuing blindness? Is it said as a tired sigh but with a willingness to again engage them and lead them to a deeper understanding and awareness? Does it have an edge? It might well be the simple inquiry to uncover what they understand: “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

There are several lines of interpretation regarding Jesus’ reply. Some scholars hold that the images offered (“drink” and “baptism”) do not hold the same significance for the disciples as they do for Jesus. In this line of thought, the cup and baptism point to Jesus’ voluntary obedience unto death for the sins of humanity; whereas, the images suggest the disciples moral participation in Jesus’ passion. [Lane, 379]. But the construct of the sentence is in the present tense. In other words, right at his moment, Jesus is drinking and being baptized. This seems to point to something other than a future moral participation in the Passion. 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