Today’s reading is Mark 10:35-45:
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Last night, my friends and I were walking along the beach. We looked out to the ocean, and all we could see was an overwhelming darkness. It was as if we were seeing what true nothingness was. And as I continued to look into the darkness, I felt a deep sense of emptiness and loneliness.
To our other side was the Myrtle Beach, full of bright colors and flashing lights. There were also a lot of people using others for their own personal gain, whether it was watching guys trying to find girls to sleep with at a club or watching groups of drunk people yell at others for their own amusement
It was an odd juxtaposition. On one side there was complete isolation, emptiness, and as close to a nothingness as I have ever felt, and on the other there was the brightest lights and life you could possibly imagine, but in the midst of that liveliness was a twisted sense of manipulation and a desire to control others.
I think these exemplify what most people think of as the options for human interaction. People could choose either to be alone or they could be surrounded by manipulation and become manipulators of others. And this is the choice that a lot of people have to make. I am far more likely to isolate myself in the darkness than expose myself to people who only want to use me, but I know of plenty of people who would much rather be used and use then be alone.
And just like my friends and I walked along the line dividing these two realities, I think Jesus has called us to do the same in a very interesting and counterintuitive way. In the last sentence of the passage above, Jesus shows us the third option. First, Jesus makes the point that he came to earth. He could have chosen to distance himself from people, but because of his love for us, he came. Similarly, Christians should not separate themselves from the world. But he did not come to be served and to control other people, but to be the one who serves. If anyone deserved to have power over others, it would be Christ, but he came to show us that we could interact in the world as servants.
Finally, I think this passage argues that this form of self-sacrificial service is not only good but also necessary to having an intimate relationship with Jesus. When James and John asked to be seated at Jesus’ right and left, they were asking not only for power and glory in the future kingdom, but also nearness with Jesus, a perfect relationship with the living God. In response, Jesus first alludes to the ritual ways of becoming right with God through baptism, which I think signifies our daily devotional lives and pursuit of following and honoring God. This is clearly healthy and important to becoming close with Jesus, but what is interesting is that he does not stop there; he also says that they must drink the cup that he drinks. This is an allusion to his suffering and death on the cross. Jesus makes it even is more specific later on in the passage when he says that they must be servants to all. We must go as far as to give our lives for others in order to be fully close to Christ. Service is an essential role to being a Christian.
So my friends and I will continue to walk along the beach. And though we may stumble and spend too much time looking at the darkness or at the city, we know that our calling is to be with others in love and service.
This passage is full of far more depth than I have covered in this short blog post. I chose to talk about what I have discussed because I both think Christians tend to de-emphasize service in the Christian life and being a light of love in the world has been on my mind a lot recently.
Richard Lopez ’15 is a Physics concentrator in Lowell House. He has lead the Social Action Team of Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA) for the past two and a half years, where he has provided meaningful and varied service opportunities for Christians.