They are on the way to Jerusalem. And, James and John come to him, “Teacher!” Jesus turns to them. He just finished his saying about the suffering and death which is going to happen to him in Jerusalem. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” What are they going to ask just right after having such a strange, horrible, terrifying word that their Teacher said?” “Teacher, there is something we want you to do for us.” “What is it?” “What do you want me to do for you?” In a moment, all stop walking and chitchatting, and turn to them. “What are they asking for?” “Teacher! When you sit on your throne in your glorious Kingdom, . . . we want you to let us sit with you, one at your right hand and one at your left.” All disciples are so angry at them. “No! I am the one who sits at his right hand or at his left. How dare you are asking for it. It is mine, not yours.” A stir among them. Yes, the Lord, the Messiah, their Teacher, is on the way to be king in his glorious Kingdom. After taking his throne, he will raise us up over the people. We will sit with him, some at his right and some at his left hand, to rule over the nations and the people. This is what they want him to do for them.
“But, . . . You do not know what you are asking for.” Yes, they know. Yes, one hundred percent, they know what they are asking for. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink? . . . Are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” “Yes, we are able.” But, they do not realize what they are asserting now. They do not know how this story is going to end, and what will happen at the end of the way to Jerusalem. They won’t be able to understand what they are called to and what they are involved in until the story is over. “Yes, we are able.” But, they are not able.
And Jesus keeps saying, “Do you want to be great among you? Do you wish to be first among you? Then, you must be the servant of the rest, and be the slave of all. The Son of Man came for this. He came not to be served but to serve, giving his life a ransom for many.”
“Yes, we are able.” But, we know, they are not able. They do not understand yet what Jesus is saying. They do not understand what the new Kingdom looks like, and what a new order is, and what the lordship is in a new reign. They do not know that, for this reason, Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. They have never seen, heard, and dreamed about such a kingdom, such a king, and such a servant. They do not know what it means to drink his cup and to be baptized with his baptism.
“Yes, we are able.” But, they are not able.
It is said in Isaiah chapter 42 and 43 that, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1) “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs froth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19) Jesus is the Servant who brings forth justice to the nations. He is the Servant through whom the hidden things that have not known (Isaiah 48:6) are about to be revealed before them, among them. God the Father is going to do a new thing through His Only Son, Jesus Christ, the Servant. A new order, a new Kingdom, is coming with and through the Servant King.
But, the disciples do not realize yet, that they are now with the Servant, on the way, . . . and the new creation, the new thing, is about to come among them, in and through His Servanthood. They do not know their Messiah is the Great Servant who came to serve them and the people and the world. And they do not know, his cup is the cup of suffering and his baptism is the baptism of death.
“Yes, we are able.” But, they are not able.
Their Teacher will die on the cross, and they will see two thieves crucified with him, one on his right hand and the other on his left. But, they won’t be there. They are not able. They are so weak they are not able. And, we are so weak we are not able. But they are able, and we are able, since they and we have a great Servant who came not to be served but to serve his people in need. And he is a great High Priest who “has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God,” and therefore, the letter to the Hebrews encourages us, saying, “let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin,” then, “let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrew 4:14-16)
Then, . . . Yes, they are able and we are able with God’s help.
“Here is my servant, whom I strengthen, the one I have chosen, with whom I am pleased. I have filled him with my Spirit, and he will bring justice to every nation.” (Isaiah 42:1)
And let me re-write it, “Lord, here is your servant, who needs to be strengthened by You, here is a little one whom You, my God, have so loved and chosen to come in flesh, with whom you are pleased in your Son, Jesus Christ. Please fill us with your Spirit, that we may become a faithful servant and loyal instrument just like your Son, Jesus Christ, for your justice, love, and mercy to be brought to every nation and to our neighbor.”
Yes, we are able with God’s help. Yes, we need his help. With God’s help, we drink the cup of his suffering, and we are baptized with the baptism of death. And in his mercy and grace, we also drink the cup of salvation and share the joy of everlasting life, and dive into the river of baptism of a new life and a new creation.
We are on the way which has not finished yet. The new order has come, but not completed yet. The show must go on, the actor must be part of it to the end. In faith, love, and hope, and with God’s help, . . . the actor on the stage know how the show will end, how the audience will give applause to them at the end of it, and how the director, the God will run up to the stage to join them. They know what is waiting for them at the end of the show, the joy.
Yes, we are able. Yes, we are able with God’s help. Yes, we are able to serve others and to be a servant of all with God’s help. We do not know what we are asking for just like the disciples. We do not know what is waiting for us on the way of faith. We are on the way with James and John and Peter and even with Judas Iscariot, doubting and wondering, where I am, where I am going, what I have left behind, and what I am walking for, and, what is waiting for me, what is before. We are on the way in doubt, in conviction, in fear, and in hope. On the way, we will feel so frustrated, tired, or sad, and despaired that we will stop walking or running, or stagger along or drop down on the roadside for a while.
But, “Yes, we are able with God’s help to finish the way.” Jesus, the Master Servant, will be there, will be here, with us at our right hand and at our left as a servant, as a friend, as a fellow pilgrim, and also as the Lord who did walk the way already, and stands at the end of the way, and is walking with us.
Yes, we are able with God’s help. So, we pray to God with the collect of today, “Almighty and everliving God, . . . increase in us your gift of faith, that forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what is before, we may run the way of your commandments and win the crown of everlasting joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”