How willing are we to give up our spot? How many times have you gone to a public space and seen folks upset because someone got ahead of them in the line? How many times have we waited in a line and saw someone who may seem to be in greater need and struggled to give up our spots? Cutting the line in traffic can cause accidents and road rage. Some folks getting promoted ahead of others can bring anger and bitterness in the work place to the point of depression and crushing, unbearable emotional pain.
When Sister Betty and her team sift through the historical artifacts and documents of our Church, they often come across memories of persons who, because of their race, were overlooked for qualified positions. All of this pain and complicated relationships are things hidden away both in our attic and in our pews this morning.
Jesus encounters two brothers trying to ‘jump’ the line. Job, of the book in the Old Testament, states he is not at the head of the line in spite his worthiness, and the writer of Hebrews proclaims Jesus was a rightful heir of the High Priest role as He was in the Melchizedekian line. My friends, to get to a deeper level than struggling with how to get ahead in life, what St. Mark’s intimates in his gospel narrative is the journey is more valuable than the destination. Mark utilizes the term “the way” throughout his narrative because for him, the joys of Christianity was in having Jesus as a companion rather than having heaven as the ultimate destination. For Mark, it was like saying, “heaven can wait! Right now, I am busy walking in Christ Jesus”.
This declaration was certainly out of step with the religious world at the time of St. Mark when there were many discussions on the validity of heaven. The accepted thinking was the Sadducees did not believe in life after death, while the Pharisees seemed to maintain ideas of heaven. In other words, rewards both materially and spiritually were part of the daily discussions in the community. It is within this light, we perceive not only James and John, but Job as well. For all believed if we do the right thing, we would be favored with a heavenly reward. My friends, though this may work for your funeral service, which by the way I have no plans of doing soon, Jesus challenges us about daily living. Jesus, very much as God did with Job, boldly declared the true joy in life is about fully understanding the nature of the relationship we share with God, and this relationship can be lived out in our daily lives.
Jesus was prophesying when he declared, as much as James and John and the disciples were His bold followers, it is God who has the last say in the end. For in the end, though many of the followers remained faithful and some denied him, next to him were two repentant sinners. In the end, all would receive their just reward, but the challenge is to continue the work of bringing people to Christ. The goal of the disciples, according to St Mark, was to walk with Christ and invite others to join them on the journey. Churches are dying today. Maybe it is the reward we have been given for not fulfilling the mission of Christ.
My friends, Jesus responded to the quarrel of the disciples not by joining or taking sides or even making a judgement, but by calling them into a deeper relationship with Him and with God. That is a valuable lesson for us all. It is because often we come to crossroads, like Job, James and John, and ask ourselves “Is it worth it?” Then Jesus calls us further and deeper to teach us some valuable lessons. Here are some of the lessons we learn only through faith:
How to keep peace during strife; How to talk kindness and understanding to those who may have an opposing view; How to find healing for a broken spirit; How to keep climbing after many falls; How to love when feeling unloved; How to keep hope when burdened with hopelessness; How to forgive when angry; How to walk farther when tired; How to keep fighting when overwhelmed by losses, and, How to walk away from the glare of knowing into the darkness of hope! That is the way Job found true fulfillment in life. This is the way that Jesus invites us to walk with Him. My friends, we are struggling to keep this church alive, but it is not my will or your will to make the church’s survival a tangible goal to achieve. It is for God to decide if we are doing His will and His works. Our duty is to seek not for the reward, but to join with Jesus on this pilgrimage of caring for the sick, healing the broken, forgiving sinners and proclaiming the mighty works of God. It is about sharing with whom he is sending to us his love and offer mercy. In the end, two redeemed sinners got the prized possession. Today, I am willing to give up my spot to better walk with Jesus.