Every time I read Mark 10:32-45 (or it’s parallels) I lose my breath.
In this exchange two of Jesus’ best friends ask him for a favor. They want the best jobs in what they expect to be his political administration. It’s backroom politics. They say, “Let one of us sit at your right and left when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus responds by reshaping their expectations of kingdom. His kingdom will not come except by his own torturous death. The cup of judgment must be drained, and he will drink it down. Can they, with their dreams of power, share in this cup?
Their response is one of love and commitment. Essentially, they say, “We’re all in, whatever the cost.” This on it’s own is a touching picture of friendship, loyalty, and devotion. But then there’s the twist.
Jesus says that the seats of honor when he comes into his kingdom are reserved for those for whom it has been prepared. Left on it’s own this seems like a dodge. Is Jesus being vague and non-committal?
When you place this story in context it becomes breathtaking.
Jesus comes into his kingdom when he is crucified. On his right and left are two criminals, one of which derides him. Here at last the places of honor beside Jesus are revealed. Here are the positions James and John thought they wanted. These right and left spots are occupied by two unnamed and perhaps unrepentant brigands.
What kind of a God is it that reserves the places of honor for lawbreakers who are not yet in relationship with him? What kind of a God refuses to play back room politics? What kind of God overlooks the earnest (albeit self-seeking) friend to ‘come into his kingdom’ between two criminals?
Behold love and power! Behold the prodigal generosity! Behold the life poured out for others, even to the point of death. This is the mystery we enter into in the upcoming week.
May we have eyes to see and hearts that ponder.