“James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’” Mark 10:35-45
In the midst of the “Walkabout” theme it’s a good time to check where we are, and where we ought not to be. What I mean is, we’ve been using language of survival (as we do in worship all the time), to see our faith journey as life and death, important, a priority, urgent, and something to stir us into action and creativity. As if we’re trying to stay alive in the wild. That’s a great sentiment, but it also goes very wrong. The survival instinct can also be a deep source of selfishness; when it comes to competing over resources, guarding what we hold valuable (especially our lives or the lives of loved ones), and doing whatever it takes to stay ahead of the curve. Survival looks out for number one; it’s in our human nature. When corrupted I think it’s a large part of the source of our greed/materialism, overly-competitive spirit, cheating/dishonesty, etc., as we try to not just survive but thrive and feel like we need whatever edge we can get to do it.
Get back to all that 2012 end-of-the-world talk. If society as we knew it was crashing down, we lost electricity and gasoline and water/food were harder to come by, how would people behave? What are the first three things you would do for the sake of survival? It would be a far more cut-throat world very quick. Every kind of movie/story that deals with apocalypse, or post-apocalypse, or zombie apocalypse (which is huge nowadays for some reason), shows a humanity that is like an animal in the wild, kill or be killed. There are tons of guides to survival:
But they don’t win any awards for holding human life sacred, putting our neighbor before ourselves, and the like.
That’s getting closer to the downside of survivalism, and it shows up spiritually, too. It showed up amongst the Twelve, the apostles, Jesus’ closest followers. There was an idea of competition, of getting the edge, of being in the place of honor. James and John weren’t horribly rotten for this little episode, I mean at least they had fervent faith that Jesus would be glorified and the world would change, they just wanted in on the ground floor. It doesn’t look like a big deal, until the other ten find out and it starts to breach their fellowship. Spiritual survival mode taken too far, to the point of trying to hedge our bets, or be #1 in God’s favor, or asking for blessing for ourselves before others, has no place in the kingdom of God, Jesus makes clear. The competition, politics, favoritism, injustice, butt-kissing, and other shenanigans of earthly power are reversed in Christ’s domain — he/she who serves and is a slave is most exalted, like Jesus himself. Success is measured by sacrifice.
Today, remember that walkabout isn’t just a 6-month trial of cut-throat survival. It is a journey of the heart, of trusting God. We don’t need to be at Christ’s right or left, it ought to be enough just to know him; we don’t Jesus to pick us for the place of honor, it is honor enough to be loved by him at all.