Another incident that occurs in the latter part of the Gospel story involves the diciples James and John, the brothers Zebedee. They approach Jesus just before they reach Jerusalem to make a request. “You will have glory in your kingdom. Let one of us sit at your right, and let one of us sit at your life.” (Mark 10:37) Even as Jesus is about to lay down his life, James and John still think that this discipleship walk is an opportunity to achieve personal glory and power.
You might think that Jesus would be tempted to pull out his hair at this point. He’s spent all this time with the disciples and they still don’t get what he’s about. You wouldn’t be surprised if he simply tossed them out of his band of disciples.
He doesn’t though. Jesus is remarkably gentle with them. He asks them whether they think they are able drink the cup that he is going to drink, or undergo the baptism he will undergo, references to his suffering and death.
“Yes we can!” they declare.
They have no idea the terror that awaits them in Jerusalem. Arrogantly they think they know, when in fact they are utterly clueless.
Jesus does, in fact know what’s ahead. He knows that when all hell breaks loose, James and John, along with all the other disciples will run for cover, overwhelmed with fear. They will not be with him to either drink the cup or undergo the baptism.
But Jesus knows what’s even further down the road. He knows that over the long term, James and John will be changed. They will both lose their self-absorption and find the faith and courage that they presently lack. They will, over time, come to share Jesus’ cup.
I find this comforting. God takes us where we are, but God doesn’t leave us there. When I look back to the motivations that led me to go into the ministry thirty years ago, I realize that there was a fair amount of self-deception involved. At least in part, I was drawn to a certain image of a minister as somebody who received admiration from others – presumably as somebody who had it all together. I didn’t have it all together, but I wanted people to think I did.
Thirty years later I know that the motivations I have for this work are by no means pure, but I am now confident that there is indeed something deeper that is leading me.
God takes us where we are, but God won’t leave us there.
In the clear light of your love, help us to let go of our self-deceptions. Allow us to catch hold of the vision of where it is you are leading us, and to trust your intention to bring us there. In Jesus’ name. Amen.