As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:17-28)
This Gospel is so appropriate for us during this Lent at this time in our world. The words that jump out at me are: “Can you drink the chalice I am going to drink that I am going to drink?”
Before you answer “of course”, then let’s be sure that we know what is in that cup and what it means for our lives. The cup that Jesus drank from contained Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Abraham’s lies. David’s adultery. Matthew’s greed. Peter’s denial. Judas’ betrayal. All of it was in that cup – and more…The sins of the past we are desperate to keep hidden – in that cup. The thoughts in our heads that would make Hollywood directors blush – they’re in the cup. The words we’ve spoken to intentionally hurt others – in the cup. And yet, the One who had no sin drank that cup and made our sins his very own.
So that he could be a ransom for our sins. Jesus put his life at our disposal so that every single person would experience fullness of life.
The catch is that we are called to take part in that same selfless act. In response to the request for James and John to have special favor, Jesus tells us how.
In the secular world, leaders exert power, domination and manipulation. They control people for their own ends. In Jesus’ world, it is altogether different. To be great is to put one’s talents totally at the service of others, to empower not to have power.
That is the measure of a person. Instead of looking for another Messiah, look for Jesus.
Jesus reverses the order and values of the world’s way of thinking. If you want to be great then become a servant for others. If you want to be first, then became a slave rather than a master. How shocking and contradictory these words must have rung in the disciples’ ears and in our own ears as well!
The model of servanthood which Jesus presents to his disciples is based on personal choice and freedom – the decision to put others first in my care and concern and the freedom to serve them with love and compassion rather than with fear or desire for reward.
The cup he had in mind was a cup of sacrificial service and death to self – even death on a cross. What kind of cup might the Lord Jesus have in mind for each one of us who are his followers? For some disciples such a cup will entail physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom – the readiness to die for one’s faith in Christ. But for many followers of Jesus Christ, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations.
An early church father summed up Jesus’ teaching with the expression “to serve is to reign with Christ”. We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service of one another as Jesus did for our sake. Are you ready to love and serve others as Jesus did?
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, make me a servant of love for your kingdom, that I may seek to serve rather than be served. Inflame my heart with your love that I may give generously and serve others joyfully for your sake.”
Ambition for greatness in Jesus’ kingdom will be shown not by positions of authority but by practices of service and ultimately by giving our whole life to rescue others from slavery to sin and death. Today, Jesus asks all of us whether we’re willing to drink that chalice. In an age in which many people speak continually of empowerment as if all of life depended on taking and exercising power, Jesus’ words about transformed ambition are ever relevant… and challenging.