Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Can You Drink From The Cup I'm Going To Drink From?

The scene: The road from Galilee to Jerusalem.

The cast: Jesus, of Nazareth; James and John, the sons of Zebedee; Salome, their mother
Ten other apostles.

Jesus: Listen carefully. We are going to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed by the Temple priests and the Doctors of the Law. They will sentence him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Romans. He will be mocked, whipped, and crucified. Then, on the third day, he will be raised up to life.

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approaches Jesus.

Jesus: What can I do for you?

Salome: Give me your word that my boys will be awarded the highest places of honor in your kingdom, one at your right hand, the other at your left.

Jesus: You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re asking for. Are you capable of drinking from the cup that I’m going to drink from?

James and John: Why wouldn’t we be?

Jesus: I tell you, you will be drinking from my cup. As for places of honor, that’s not up to me; that’s my Father’s responsibility.

Upon hearing this, the other ten become indignant with the two brothers. Jesus turns to them.

Jesus: You’ve seen how godless rulers throw their weight around and how quickly a little power goes to their heads. That’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Rather, whoever seeks to be first among you must be the servant of the others. That is what the Son of Man has done: He has come not to be served, but to serve, and then, to give his life as a ransom for the many.

In Mark’s gospel, it is James and John who asked Jesus for important positions in his Kingdom. In Matthew, it is their mother, Salome, a kinswoman of Jesus’ mother Mary. It isn’t as clear in English as it is in the original Greek. “You (plural) don’t have the slightest idea what you’re asking for. Are you (plural) capable of drinking from the cup that I’m going to drink from?” He wasn’t speaking to Salome, but to her sons. And the other ten were not angry with her, but with them. Maybe they were hoping to have important positions when the Son of Man (a word that refers only to the Messiah) establishes his earthly kingdom. But, it would seem, all of them missed a key part of what Jesus was telling them. They would become the first major executives in the organization Jesus founded. But each of them would also drink from his cup. Only John would survive until his old age, the others would shed their blood for their faith.

All in all, there’s not that much difference between yesterday’s gospel and today’s. Except for one thing. James, John and the other ten all have high places in the Heavenly Kingdom of the Son of Man. As for the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, there is not sufficient evidence to make a judgment as to their ultimate destiny.

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