Reflections from The Hill – A Slice of the Action. Mark 10:35-45
You will never know how I loathed those pick-up footy games we played in the park as children. Waiting to get picked was bad: standing, first on one foot then another, arms folded, head bowed with eyes and heart downcast, knowing that it was useless punching the air to attract attention. Invariably, I was picked last.
Getting the good ones first has been a behaviour for many a century. Think about The Man’s Followers. They’d turned up to play and they thought they were ready but they seemed to have had trouble getting their heads around what the game was. Obviously, suffering and death weren’t on their agenda.
After all, a piece of real estate next to The Man would be pretty special, wouldn’t it? (We people of the twenty-first century know they really didn’t have a clue about what The Man was talking about. As for the ‘cup of suffering’, well, who knows what they were thinking.)
One thing’s for sure. The Man knew which way was up and, yes, they were going to be given what they desired but it wasn’t going to be quite what they had in mind. There was to be no glory or very much honour for them as it happened.
Each of us has been there, one way or another. Each of us has experienced being passed over for something, by a parent, a school teacher, a boss, even a friend. It’s easy to identify with what was going on in the minds of the other disciples as they listened to the little chat between the Three Js (James, John and Jesus).
Were they indignant? The Book says so. Were they miffed and probably jealous? I’d be surprised if they weren’t. Did the emotional temperature rise somewhat? Go figure.
It’s at this point that The Man, as he has done before, shifts the goal-posts. The real nature of leadership in this outfit, he says, hasn’t anything to do with real estate or who their ancestors were.
In fact, the idea of a servant-leader is quite counter-cultural. Even our European version is only a mild form of the “Big Man” Syndrome beloved by many, so any suggestion that the ‘Big Man’ would be a servant is a scary proposition.
It’d be enough to keep cardiologists in business for decades, such would be the amount of hypertension.
This model that The Man is espousing is a far cry from what The Team expected. They weren’t expecting to suffer and die but that’s where they were heading. They expected The Man to run with the leadership thing, to be made into Big Men themselves. What they weren’t prepared for was servanthood.
God’s people are not spared the pains of living in a foreign land, in a world not our own. To lead in Jesus’ way, means to follow and serve, and it may even mean to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Discipleship and suffering go together.
Unless I’ve missed something, we’re not much into suffering these days. Rather the opposite is true: we all want to live pain-free, happy, lives but, thanks to the magic of television, we can now watch and hear others do it for us and we say “Oh dear.”
Of course, we can send money to sponsor a child or to support a missionary without risking sickness or disease or our own safety just by being at home, in our own lounge room.
Of course, we can do what we can to spare our own children hardship and suffering, and can exercise our freedom of choice and do it our way and have it thought of as a Good Thing.
What ever happened to The Man’s invitation for us to join the Suffer Club? Isn’t that what he was on about when he talked about a radical discipleship?
Isn’t following him and being part of God’s Reign now opening our selves to the realities of this beautiful, broken world? No one will get out of this life alive; suffering is simply part of the fabric.
Being in the Suffer Club means to discover that there is beauty, joy, and hope in serving others. As we use our membership of that Club and share the suffering of others, we learn what it means to be fully dependent on The Man.
Getting a slice of the action in the Suffer Club means getting in touch with others across time and place who bear the name of Christ. It’s a big club, with a vast table and good company, where there’s always room for one more. Sure beats waiting to get picked.