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Do You Hear?

March 12, 2018

“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 43-45)

Parents are quite sure at times that their children aren’t listening to them and vice versa. How many times has a parent said “no” to a request only to be asked the same thing by the child a moment later? How many times has your child said to you, “Weren’t you listening to what I just said?”   We all get distracted from time to time and fail to listen to people who are talking to us. Listening is a key part of effective communication.  As someone said: “That’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth.”

Today’s gospel lesson is an example of the disciples failing to listen to Jesus, who referred to himself as the Son of Man.[1] The Son of Man is a phrase Jesus used throughout his ministry to explain that he is the Son of God. When Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man, he is emphasizing his heavenly origin and home.[2] By this time, the disciples knew full well that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, but they still expected him to be the conquering superhero who would deliver them from their Roman rulers.

So on his final trip to Jerusalem, he tried to explain to them for the third time what was about to take place: “Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.   ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise’” Mark 10: 32-34.

Pretty strong stuff.  Jesus had just told them that he would be betrayed, condemned to death, turned over to the Romans who will mock him, spit on him, beat him, and then kill him. After all that suffering, he will be resurrected three days later.

In all fairness, who could grasp what he was saying? The disciples may have thought it was a metaphor.  Yet, he identified himself as the Son of Man, and listed his sufferings, hardly following his usual story-telling mode.  So you wouldn’t expect them to react the way they did: James and John asked to be his Vice-President and Secretary of State! Instead of pressing him for the details of his upcoming trials, they were thinking of themselves and the elevated positions they could negotiate for themselves: “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mark 10: 37).

Can’t you just see Jesus’ thought bubble: “Did you hear what I just said?” before he said: “You don’t know what you’re asking” (Mark 10: 38).   Still not comprehending what he had told them, they assured Jesus that they could do whatever is required.   This often happens in organizations where people who seek prestige and power represent that they can do what is required in the position sought, but really have no idea what is required of a good leader. They are simply thinking of the corner office, the title on the door, the increased paycheck and other benefits.  So Jesus gathered them together and told them: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10: 42-45).  Jesus was telling them that in his kingdom, greatness lies not in the number of people you control, but the number of people you can help.

Throughout history, the prophets had emphasized that God’s laws and ways were instituted by God for the benefit of his people by the God who loves and cherishes them: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people . . . I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Excerpts, Jeremiah 31: 33-34).   The psalmist emphasizes the importance of seeking God with one’s whole heart as the key to contentment: “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you . . . I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches” (Psalm 119: 10-11, 14).

The author of Hebrews emphasizes Jesus’ humility, as the sign of a great leader: “Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest, But God said to him, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’ . . Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Excerpts Hebrews 5: 5-10).

When we are assured of God’s love and our place in his kingdom as his child, we do not need to jockey for position in the world.  Title and position no longer have a hold on our souls.  These texts teach us to listen to the words of the Master—to pay attention to Jesus. When we seek Jesus with all our heart, and truly want to follow him, we will find ways to serve others, not our own interests.  We will find ways to help others.  We will find ways to assist where needed.  We will offer our services, resources, and energy to those in need.  Listen to the Master, and follow his lead.  You will never go wrong by following the path that God has laid before you.

I woke up early this morning to hear the hooting of a neighborhood owl: “Whoo-whoo;  whoo-whoo.”  Who indeed.  It is almost too inconceivable to comprehend–that Jesus lived and died for you and me.  God, in the person of Jesus Christ, loves you so much that he went to the cross to pay for your sins.  Do you hear?  Do you hear?

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Fifth Sunday in Lent are Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Psalm 119: 9-16; Hebrews 5: 1-10; Mark 10: 32-45.

[2] When Jesus calls himself the Son of Man, he is referring to the heavenly figure described in Daniel 7:13: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.

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