With humility. Holding hands with humility instead of partnering with power. Holding hands with humility instead of partnering with power is the phrase going through my mind and into my heart since I read it earlier this week when Karoline Lewis quoted it in her “Dear Working Preaching” post. Here is the full quote from Russ Dean;
"No matter what Jesus said, partnering with power is a lot more attractive than holding hands with humility, domination much more tempting than death.” Russ Dean, “The Church Is Called to Die,” Opinion published on Baptist News Global. Sept. 21, 2021. You can find the full article here.
This Sunday October 17, 2021 we will hear Mark 10:35-45; James and John’s request to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in his glory. They don’t know what they are asking. Rivalry, competition, who is the greatest, being number one, comparison, striving for a special place at the table or in the kindom of God…. Happened then, happens now. The desire to partner with power; to be on the “winning” team, to climb the ladder and get ahead- our human condition shown in bright colors in the gospel reading.
Who will be on the right hand of Jesus - a criminal to be put to death. And who will be on left hand of Jesus- a criminal to also be crucified. In Mark’s gospel account of the crucifixion they both join in the taunting of Jesus. The disciples didn’t know what they were asking for from Jesus. The exchange we have in Mark 10 comes after the third time that Jesus predicts his death and what will happen.
James and John want power, prestige, a special place. They just don’t “get it”. The invitation of “come and see” and come and follow me is an invitation to come and die. The cross is where Jesus is going and that is the life of following he invites them and us to enter into.
"Come and follow me" is an invitation to a cross shaped life. Lives are reordered, re-evaluated and reorganized moving away from seeking power, prestige and a special place- to instead hold hands. Jesus is instructing them in the way to follow, to be disciples. Let go of the prestige and seek God's will and direction. Look not to titles and places to give you value and honor instead serve one another and the world. Seek first the kindom of God. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matthew 5:11)
It is not about being first. It is about following. It is about listening and learning and watching how Jesus does this. It's a new way to show up in the world. In Mark 10:43 Jesus tells his friends and followers, “…it is not so among you.” This wanting to secure a special place for yourselves; to partner with power is not the way to follow Jesus. Instead we are invited to circle up and join hands. We get to keep widening the circle- to invite and include all as we practice humility.
This humility is not humiliation although it might at times feel or seem that way- power and prestige play a zero sum game. Jesus speaks at the end of this passage about coming “not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45) The Greek word used for serve- διακονέω- diakoneó: to serve, minister is the same word the gospel writer of Mark used for the angels who ministered to Jesus in the wilderness for the forty days before he began his ministry.
Allowing himself first to be ministered to and served, sets Jesus on a course where he could then live out his purpose- to give his life as the “ransom"- an offering for the many. Humility as the complete reliance upon God- this is what Jesus calls his followers and us to do. Take hold. Hold on to the love of Jesus that surrounds and sustains us. Hold hands with humility.