Mark 10: 35-45
In these crazy days of catastrophic change and uncertainty with random acts of violence springing up anywhere and anytime, countless instances of terror and terrorism both here and around the globe, is there anyone among you who doesn’t experience fear on some level? Or, if not fear at least high levels of anxiety? It’s a scarry, what if world. I am not a grandmother yet and for as much as I desire to be one, I’m not so sure that I want grandchildren coming into this world. I’m fearful, I have to admit. And yet, I know that I cannot live out of a place of dread and apprehension, that I have to live into the future with confidence and faith that when, and if ever those little grands finally appear on the Wagner family scene they will be ok. But boy, it’s tough!
Our reading today from the Gospel of Mark begs us to look at fear, faith and what security might mean as a Christian. From the 10th chapter beginning at verse 35….
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him (Jesus) and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it 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.”
But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then 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; 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.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “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; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
You know, Jesus tries so hard to give the disciples some sense of security for the future and for what’s going to be happening to him, that is his crucifixion, death and resurrection. But they don’t hear it. There is some kind of disconnect for them. Whether they just don’t want to hear it or they just don’t understand what Jesus is saying, Jesus tells them three times what the future will hold and three times their responses are a bit off but oh, so human.
If you remember, Jesus tells them that he will be betrayed and killed and with that Peter rebuked Jesus. Not quite the response that Jesus was probably hoping for. Isn’t that how we often react to information we don’t want to hear though? We get angry at the one who delivers the bad tidings and lash out at them. But Jesus says to Peter ‘deny yourself, take up your cross, if you want life - loose it’. He meets Peter head on, gives him instructions on how to live and then Jesus takes the inner, inner circle James, John and Peter up the mountain and his transfiguration occurs.
The second time Jesus shares with them about his future they are still up in the Galilee and he tells them that he will be betrayed into human hands, that he will be killed and after three days be raised up. Still, the disciples didn’t understand.
If only they did they could prepare themselves for their future and hopefully feel some sense of security in that future. They might not have been happy about it but at least they could take some measures to begin to reorder their life post resurrection. That reordering is important work, it give us a safety net when we feel like we are tumbling far out of control. Reordering allows us to decide what and who really matters to us removing the extraneous influences that detract us from fruitful living.
And the third time Jesus and his followers were on the road to Jerusalem and he tells them that he will be handed over to the scribes and chief priests. He’ll be mocked, spat upon, flogged and killed. I think it’s at this point that the disciples become a little vulnerable and shaky in the thought of their future. They begin to sense that there is a fly in the ointment, there is something very fishy and way off. Or just maybe they really do get it but are flat out afraid of what the future holds for them.
It is out of this third attempt that James and John – the bold and the brave – the brothers Zebedee pipe up. “Rabbi Jesus, we want you to do what we ask you to do.” Can you imagine? Asking, or in this case demanding Jesus to do what it is that they want. It seems rather bold to me, there seems to be a certain edge to what the Mr.’s Zebedee are asking.
But Jesus reaction is quite remarkable, he doesn’t cut them off, instead he asks a question, as Rabbis do, “What do you want me to do?” Well they want the best seats in the house. A seat on Jesus’ right and a seat on Jesus’ left side, right beside him in all his glory. They went for pay dirt, they want front row center in the orchestra pit! But it seems a bit childish doesn’t it? What if they were acting out of a place of fear rather than what seems to be narcissistic behavior? This becomes a whole different text to talk about.
Security is a fine thing isn’t it? I believe that is one of the top things that we all yearn for in our lives. Security! Financial security, security in our home, the security of what we think a higher education might bring, security of your health and health care system, national security - why all you need do is to pick up a newspaper or most any magazine and you’ll find articles on how you can make your life better and more secure. When security is obtained it should always be followed with a big sigh of relief.
When you have security or feel entirely safe you have peace of mind. And when you have peace of mind you are comfortable and stable. You are free from anxieties and fear. All your worries have been released or relinquished so that you can free yourself of that which might burden you and be engaged in activities and thoughts that delight you. Everyone wants security because in this broken world there isn’t a whole lot that you can actually count on and we are often lured into a false sense of security and hope through unhealthy endeavors or material things.
Fear Breeds Insecurity
Fear, as we know and maybe have even experienced, breeds incredible insecurity. It forces us to act in the most unusual ways. Remember back 15 years ago now. Y2K? Now you don’t need to raise your hands but, how many of you followed the Red Cross guidelines and made up a Y2K Preparedness Kit?
As I recall however, there was a fear that resided just under the surface for a lot of people…waterless facets, empty grocery shelves, cash registers that wouldn’t open, power outages, bank failures, even rioting in the streets.
People were a little over the top. When you are afraid you are not secure in your surroundings or your existence and that insecurity causes you to do or act in ways that will help to bring you that safety net, protection, well being and self-assurance, in whatever form it might take. It’s a human response. But we can’t live out of fear. We have the best security of all when it comes to what really matters and when it come to what can truly bring us inner peace.
Jesus as our Security
We have Jesus, who through his human and divine nature, can calm our fears and reduce the anxiety that we experience in our lives. By his example, through him we have faith; we can relax into the freedom from fear through God’s mighty act in human history. Faith gives us hope in things we cannot envision for ourselves quite yet.
Rely on your faith in the God of comfort and love. When fear creeps up face it head on, it will give you tremendous power over that fear. Have courage, and be resolved to go forward no matter what the circumstance might be. It’s a mind game that your faith can win for you. And love, the New Testament tells us that there is no fear in love, love casts out all fear. This is the deep and abiding love for God, for yourself, for your fellow human beings that walk upon this great earth. This love that casts our fear will give you the inner spiritual resources that are needed to bring equilibrium back in your life.[i]
You can master your fear. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. There was no one there.” Faith bests fear. And this is the Gospel message for today.