When Jesus was going to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “See, we are going to Jerusalem. There, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law; and they will condemn him to death. They will hand him over to the foreigners, who will mock him, scourge him and crucify him. But he will be raised to life on the third day.”
Then the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favor. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here, you have my two sons. Grant, that they may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”
Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink my cup; but to sit at my right or at my left is not for me to grant. That will be for those, for whom my Father has prepared it.”
The other ten heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to him and said, “You know, that the rulers of nations behave like tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you: whoever wants to be great in your community, let him minister to the community. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man, who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life to redeem many.”
Even to the very end of his life, Jesus was completely misunderstood. This is made perfectly clear in today’s gospel reading. This reading presents Jesus as explaining to the Twelve his coming Passion and death in terms which could not have been more graphic and explicit.
Yet, right after this prediction, two of the Twelve ask through the mouth of their mother that they be given important jobs in the coming order of things—as if Jesus was about to be crowned king of Israel! When asked if they are ready to share Jesus’ destiny (drink the same cup), they cockily reply that they can, totally unaware that Jesus’ destiny will involve a shameful public execution.
Meanwhile the other ten get angry at James and John. They, two, have understood nothing of Jesus’ dire prediction about his imminent death, a death on a cross. They want to have big jobs, too, in the new order of things.
How Jesus must have felt at a loss when confronted with such a wrong understanding of everything he has been trying to teach these obtuse disciples of his! So now he dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. A real follower of his must be “the servant of all.” Nothing above that.
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