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Text: Mark 10: 35 – 45
So Prince William this week said that “We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live.” In response to the latest billionaire space race stunt of Amazon sending William Shatner into space briefly.
And I agree. And I think those great minds would probably love to work on saving the planet, but the billionaires who are paying them don’t want them to.
I’m saying that Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson are not the “great minds.” They’re billionaires who pay physicists, engineers, and technicians, who are great minds. But they certainly like portraying themselves as great minds to the public, as eccentric scientist types. And they go up into space and have everybody “ooh” and “aah” at their pointlessness.
They want everybody to look up to them. They want to be thought of as heroes and saviours of humanity and seen as geniuses. They want to be the ones to lead us into a Star Trek future, while ignoring the part of Star Trek where it’s a post-scarcity future where everyone’s basic needs are met.
(I love Star Trek, btw. I’m very passionate about it. I want a Star Trek future. Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher is the first woman I looked at as a kid and thought, “She’s so pretty; I want to look just like her”)
“You know that among the Gentiles, those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you.”
Jesus offers us a vision of the Kingdom of God without hierarchy. James and John, they want to be assured that they will be rewarded with their rightful place. “We were the first you called, with Peter, so we should be first when you get your throne.”
The disciples are thinking that there must be someone at the top of the pyramid. They cannot conceive the Kingdom of God except as a hierarchy where they will get to be first; that’s why they signed up to follow Jesus, right? To be part of the elite.
But Jesus rebuffs them. “If you want to be first, you have to serve.” No, you will not get servants. You will not be like the Emperor; you will not have statues made of you; you will not get buildings named after you. You won’t be important, people won’t pray to you . . . unless you become like the lowest servants. Unless you’re willing to become hated, not loved; persecuted, not worshipped; killed, not celebrated. “Can you drink the cup that I am drinking?”
Look at these people, whom those rich rulers despise. The Emperor would never be seen down among the lepers, washing their feet. He would say that as Emperor it was his divine right to be at the top and have people wash his feet. But God gives you no such rights. God gives you no special privileges for being a Christian. God gives you responsibility and a call to love.
The irony being, eventually, the disciples did get the message, most of them anyway. The only one who doesn’t have statues and buildings named after him and to whom people don’t pray is the one who couldn’t accept that and betrayed the movement.
I had a bit of a theological realization. So, the Gospel according to Mark is the shortest of the gospels. And nearly the entirety of it is repeated between Matthew and Luke, so likely it’s the earliest and Matthew and Luke copied Mark and added their own stuff. It’s a bit basic, but Mark was always an enigma to me, because there’s this running theme where Jesus doesn’t want anybody to know who he is, and if they know, not to tell anyone else. Peter says, “You are the Messiah,” and he “sternly orders” the disciples not to tell anyone. He heals lepers and they say, “You are the Son of David,” and he tells them not to tell anyone. They don’t listen. Demons recognize him, and he orders them to be quiet.
But if Jesus had gone around saying, “Hey, I’m the Son of God,” then the movement would have lost its purpose. If everybody knew and believed he was the Son of God, he would be surrounded by important people; he would only hang out among the elite. But his purpose was the expansion of God’s love and blessing to those who had been denied it, not those who were already swimming in it.
The only time Jesus openly and publicly declares who he is, when he says “I am the Son of God and the Son of Man,” is not when it will get him followers and accolades; it’s when it gets him executed for blasphemy.
So the purpose of keeping it a secret who Jesus is, is to keep the Jesus movement on track.
We think that there must be someone at the top, and that things are good when the “right” person is at the top, and things are bad when the “wrong” person or people are. Usually, we think the people who should be at the top are those who look or act like us. Our religion, our race, our gender, our social class.
But, if we are Christians, we know that we are not meant to inherit the world. That is for the meek, not the mighty. The king, the ruler, the Prime Minister or President, the billionaire tech “genius,” the rock star pastor with a private jet; they want us to worship them. They want us to try and experience vicariously their greatness, look up to them.
But we, following Jesus, we have no king except God; no ruler except Christ. And our God wears a crown of thorns and whose throne is a cross. There are no privileges for the elite. There are no special privileges for those who have done the most. The last will be first. The world will be turned upside down, and those who “don’t deserve” God’s blessing in many people’s eyes will be the ones showered with it.
Jesus gives us a command, that if we are to be counted among his followers, we are to serve. We are to serve the lowest and the least, not the high and mighty. And not to make ourselves out to be the high and mighty, but to humble ourselves, so that we can love more fully. Amen.