OCTOBER 17. Ord Time B. Wk 29. Sun. Mk 10. 35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’
When the other ten heard this, they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
To understand this passage, it is necessary to be aware of its two preceding verses, namely; “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles and they will mock him, spit on him, scourge him and kill him, and after three days he will rise again!
And it was following this statement James and John asked to sit on the right and left of Christ in his glory, but Jesus made it clear: “You do not know what you are asking; - can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?”
The roles they were asking for; - to be the closest allies of Jesus, would necessarily involve great suffering, given the information they had just been provided with. Christ was about to give his life on a Cross, for the sins of mankind, but it did not seem to register with these two disciples. Had they been aware it is highly likely they would not have sought this honour!
Christ’s reply did indicate that they would have to suffer greatly, but it is very doubtful if the disciples had understood this aspect of the message, as they seemed to be more focused on seeking honours for themselves, which is why their fellow disciples were indignant with them.
Jesus realised this and took the opportunity to teach his followers the need for humility and service and to point out this was more important than obtaining first place, which was what James and John wanted.
“Among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all!”
Rather than seeking the first place, what Jesus wants of his followers is they imitate his own way of life, and he takes this opportunity to point out to the disciples; - “The Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many!”
The disciples still had much to learn about what was involved in being a follower of Christ, as they still seemed blissfully unaware of the central place of self-denial and sufferings?
Gospel Acclamation Mark 10:45
The Son of Man came to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for all.
First reading Isaiah 53:10-11 ·
If he offers his life in atonement, what the Lord wishes will be done
The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering.
If he offers his life in atonement,
he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life
and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.
His soul’s anguish over,
he shall see the light and be content.
By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,
taking their faults on himself.