To Become Great..

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (10:32-45)

Our reading today is a preparation for things to come. We are told that our Lord Jesus Christ began to teach His disciples and to tell them that they would be going up to Jerusalem together. He told them that the Son of man would be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes and that He would be condemned and delivered to the Gentiles. He told them that He would be mocked, scourged, spit upon and killed. We are so used to hearing these things that we don’t see how amazing these statements are. The Lord is giving them confirmation and certainty regarding events that have not yet taken place. He sees it clearly, as if it has already happened.

So it is amazing because the Lord clearly predicted all of these events and it is also amazing because when the events began to happen, the disciples were terrified in the truest sense of the word. They trembled. They hid. Although the Lord told them all that was to take place, they did not accept these things or truly hear Him. They thought only of their lives in those moments when their Master was arrested. In their extreme fear they had also forgotten the final prediction that Our Lord had made to them. After telling them all that He would be betrayed and arrested and mocked and scourged and spit upon and killed, He in fact told them one more critical piece of information. “After three days He will rise.”

All of it was predicted. The Lord prepared them all for what was to come and yet they didn’t believe until they saw it happening with their own eyes. Even after these events began to transpire they did not believe. Had they believed they would not have been troubled at all precisely because the Lord said that He would rise again on the third day. Why should one be troubled by persecution and possible execution if one believes in the resurrection of their Master and Lord? We see this in the witness of the martyrs and their courage. But it is clear that the disciples did not yet believe.

After hearing all of these things, the two brothers, the sons of thunder, James and John came to the Lord and asked for Him to grant them whatever they desire. It sounds very strange to us, as if they think of the Lord as a genie. And what do they ask for? They ask to be seated in glory one at the right and the other at the left of the Lord. We can commend them for their grand thinking and having faith that the Lord could share such gifts with them. But then our Lord lets them in on a little secret regarding His kingdom. Everything is upside down. In this world we have certain expectations of how things should work. We have certain ideas about how things need to be done to “accomplish goals” or to conquer our problems. Most of these ideas and solutions involve the use of human ingenuity or the use of force and the exercise of power.

Alexander became great through his use of force and the exercise of his power. Napoleon was similar. Most historical leaders have followed this path. It is the path of the world. Yet the Lord offers a rebuke to His disciples and to all of us. In the kingdom, everything is truly upside down. Our Master Jesus Christ answers the brothers with these words,

“You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be servant of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

In essence the Lord says “you have come to me to become great, but you don’t understand that greatness requires great love and great sacrifice on behalf of all and for all.” Our Lord Jesus does not merely speak as a teacher detached from the situation. He lived this reality. He is more than happy to see us become great and to share in the glories of His kingdom. He wants us to share everything with Him forever. But there are absolutely no shortcuts available. If you want to be great. If you want to be great in the way that Our Lord Jesus Christ desires us to be great. If you want to be a living saint, then you must follow Christ and imitate His love and sacrificial service.

It’s definitely much harder than it sounds because it requires each of us to become less from an earthly perspective. I have all of these things that I desire, hopes, dreams and so forth. But many of these things have to be postponed or cancelled in order to fulfill the roles that God has given me. In order to become the man that God wants me to be, I must decrease and find a way to make everyone around me more important. I should be willing to make time for everyone, to help everyone, do be with others not only when they are happy but when they are in pain and have need. Each of us is called to serve one another in love.

We serve one another because we know that the world is full of pain and suffering caused by sin. We serve one another because we would hope that if the roles and circumstances were reversed we would also want others to serve us. But most of all we serve one another because Christ taught us how to serve one another fully. He showed us what it is to be a human by the way that He served and gave of Himself even to the point of death. This is our calling, difficult as it may be. We incarnate the life of Christ by dying to ourselves knowing that God sees our daily sacrifice and pours out grace upon us to multiply and bless our work.

Finally, we can serve one another through the work of heartfelt prayer. As St. John of Kronstadt says,

“Do not let pass any opportunity to pray for anyone…. The Lord looks favorably upon the prayer of our love, and upon our boldness before him. Besides this, prayer for others is very beneficial to the one himself who prays for others; it purifies the heart, strengthens faith and hope in God, and enkindles our love for God and our neighbor. When praying, say thus: ‘Lord, it is possible for Thee to do this or that to this servant of Thine; do this for him, for Thy name is the Merciful Lover of mankind and the Almighty.’”

This is our calling together, to love and serve one another and give our lives for each other with the sure and certain faith that the giver of life, Jesus Christ will raise us up at the last day and will give us new and glorious life.
Source: Sermons