Fifth Sunday in Lent [b] March 21, 2021
32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” 35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to [Jesus] and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In the Name of Jesus.
Glory. Anyone could use a little glory in life. Glory, triumph, success, honor, strength—who would turn away?
How many books written, how many self-help programs sold, how many people signed up for motivational seminars, for just that—glory, success, triumph. We want to rise above, to excel; we want strength to replace failure and weakness.
James and John wanted glory. Mark 10:37:
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to [Jesus] and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
The Lord’s glory—what did James and John think that would be? Maybe they were thinking of Mount Sinai. When Moses came down from Sinai to address the people, they saw thunders and lightenings and a thick cloud on the mountain, they heard a loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. [Exodus 19:16]
Maybe James and John thought of that for glory. Or maybe of Mt. Carmel when the prophet Elijah smashed the false Baal prophets by calling fire out of Heaven.
What were James and John thinking when they said they wanted to sit with Jesus in his glory? Whatever they were thinking, they got it totally wrong. Mark 10:38:
Jesus said to [James and John], “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
The glory of the Lord. It’s not fire from the sky, not earthquake, not death to enemies. It’s no earthly success and triumph and honor and strength. It’s not the self-help program nor the motivational seminar. It’s nothing that anyone would put up on Instagram or Facebook as an inspiring photo.
The glory of the Lord is a man bleeding on the cross as he breathes his last breath. A man publicly accused and humiliated by teachers of the Law. A man who has taken upon himself the sins of the world, and who, in speaking of himself, said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give a life a ransom for many.”
This is glory, true glory on Earth, the Lord’s glory. Glory is not God’s almighty dominion crushing sinners, not God’s holiness consuming everything unholy, not God’s infinite power unleashed here on Earth.
Glory is God’s holiness and power concealed, cloaked so that as God comes to the sinner to give gifts, the sinner is not destroyed by his holiness.
So God’s power is seen in Mount Sinai’s fire and lightening, but God does not come down the mountain to destroy the sinners below. Rather, God puts his Word on the tongue of Moses, and in the weakness and humanity of Moses, God approaches the sinner in weakness to forgive sins and give gifts.
And then God comes himself in the flesh as the child of Mary. He grows up just as any other human, in the normal way.
Why didn’t God just come down spiritually, in holiness, in power, and approach the sinner that way? Because the Son of God came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
He came in weakness so as not to destroy the sinner by his holiness and power, but, cloaked in human flesh, as true Man, to give to the sinner gifts.
The gift. His Body and his blood on the cross. We want to see God in his glory? Then we look at the cross.
Not fire and lightening flashing, but Body and Blood dying. Not power and success dominating, but the Son of Man, speaking grace to give gifts.
Now God’s glory to us.
“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory,”
James and John said to Jesus.
They will be with Jesus in his glory. As they see him dying for all sinners, including themselves, on the cross, they see him in his glory.
Jesus has us, too, with him in his glory.
His cross is his glory on Earth. We belong to his cross. Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
His glory is not to destroy the sinner, nor to force the sinner to serve him, but to cleanse the conscience, serving the sinner with his gifts. His glory is the sinner baptized. 1 Peter 3:21:
Baptism … now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
His glory is him approaching us now not in uncloaked power which would annihilate us in our sinful flesh, but coming to us in his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all our sin—for the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
And now we are the glory of God to one another and to our neighbor.
Not because we exhibit the glory of God as we live the victorious Christian life—whatever that nonsense might mean. And not because we show forth the glory of God by parading ourselves around as those who have overcome every obstacle and who prove ourselves through our obedience—that may make us look strong, but then we remember, our Lord comes in weakness.
We are God’s glory to one another as we proclaim the crucifixion of Christ Jesus, as we remind each other of his coming in weakness to be our Savior. We are God’s glory to our neighbor not in proving what good Christians we can make ourselves appear to be, but in speaking to our neighbor the grace and mercy of the Son of Man who comes not to be served, but to serve.
In short, we are God’s glory to one another and to our neighbor as we forgive sins.
For we belong to Christ who forgives sins, who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
In the Name of Jesus.