Reflecting on this week’s lectionary readings, Pastor Augustin shares a short devotional:
These Sunday’s readings hit at the very heart of what man is all about. It’s pride vs. humility.
Isaiah speaks of the Servant – the humble servant of God who will bow down even before evil, who will give his face to be slapped, and his body to be disfigured. He will give himself up to die, because of the will of God.
But he still submits to God’s will. Stripped of name, title, clothes, status, he hangs naked from a cross, cursed before God and man.
Yet, Isaiah reminds us, not because of anything he did, but because of what we did.
This is in stark contrast to the Gospel reading, where James and John marched up to Jesus and demanded status and prestige, because of all that they had done – giving up their families and their possessions for Christ.
What a contrast! Jesus turns away from status and these brothers demand it. To be seated at the right and left of the personage is to be recognised and given due honor. They wanted Jesus to recognise what they had given up and give them the honor they deserved. Jesus asks them, gently, I think, “are you able to drink of the same cup as me?” Vivid, picturesque language to indicate their willingness to suffer. I don’t think Jesus was threatening them. I think he was just pointing out reality.
The Epistle reading points out that Jesus was raised and given the name above every other name because of his submission to suffering. True status comes from true humility – a submission to the will of God and recognising that at the end of it all, we are mere creatures of God. If James and John wanted status, they would have it all right, but they would have to walk the path first. They have to come face to face with not only their nothingness but their willingness to be nothing. History records that James was the first apostle to be martyred. John was the last Apostle to die – a peaceful death, perhaps, but after a life of exile and pain.
I can’t help but wonder sometimes about how much this goes against the grain of our human self – against our pride. Our ego. Our estimation of ourselves. In this world where “me”, “I”, and “we” come first – yes, even in holy or noble pursuits – the Lord calls us to a correct estimation of ourselves – if you want to be great, you must first be a slave (not servant) to all… Ouch!