LENT 5, B – March 18, 2018

SCRIPTURES - Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 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, 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.” Mark 10

 

Today’s Gospel begins by telling us that Jesus and His disciples are traveling and are nearing Jerusalem. James and John believe that His arrival there will usher in the culmination and highpoint of His life. He will enter into His glory, and they want to have major roles in it. So, they ask to be seated at His right hand and His left in His glory.

Jesus was entering into His glory; but He speaks of it, not as glory, but as a baptism and a cup. Baptism and the cup define His life. They are its glory. What does He mean? Let’s go back.

First, Jesus’ baptism: outwardly, it seems different than yours. He went to it as an adult, and by His own choice; whereas you (at least, most of us) were brought to it by your parents, and when you were a baby. But, when John the Baptist tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized, saying that He did not need to receive it but to give it, Jesus replied, “Let it be so. It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus considered His baptism a necessity and not a choice. All righteousness had to be fulfilled. What is right – above all, God’s Law – had to be kept. And so, it was His Father’s will that led Him to His baptism, just as it was your parents’ will that brought you to your baptism. Jesus joined in with all the other sinners and became one with them in committing Himself to live as God’s child, under His Law. Jesus shows what baptism is: it’s not an exalting of yourself, a standing up and saying how worthy you are and what you will do for God. It is a humbling of yourself, confessing yourself an unworthy sinner; but, it is doing so in the faith that in your baptism God takes you as His child and promises to lead you throughout your life. As His children we are not to choose our own ways but, like Jesus, are to follow the will of God our Father.

Jesus also speaks of a cup defining His life. There is one cup He stresses in His ministry: the cup of His blood, shed to pay for sins. Reality is at the heart of this.

Ø  He shed His blood for real sins which bring real anger and real punishment. God isn’t just mildly displeased at our disobedience; He hates it, for its defiance and selfishness is like the breaking of a marriage. “I was a husband to my people,” He says in Jer. 31, “and my people broke my covenant with them.” And, His punishment isn’t an empty threat. When Jesus bore our sins He endured real pain and sorrow. He felt God’s hatred and eternal judgment, and truly died.

Ø  The blood He shed was also real. Jesus didn’t fake His death. Real nails were driven through His hands and feet, a real spear was plunged into His side, and a real grave received His dead body.

The night before He died Jesus put all of this into the cup He gave us, the new testament of His body and blood. The cup you drink here is far more than just a remembrance, a looking back. It is a real receiving of His blood, along with the blessing He gained for you by shedding His blood. God promised in Jer. 31 that He would make a new covenant with us, in which “I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more.” This promise is fulfilled for you as this forgiveness is given you in Jesus’ cup. It is not the promise of a quick and easy and victorious life and entrance into glory, but a participation in Christ’s sacrifice. It’s amazing that His disciples missed this, even after He spoke so clearly to them of it, and instead focused the glory they would have.

It’s amazing when we, also, exalt ourselves by expecting God to keep from us the hardships and sufferings that come because of sins:

Ø  Our own, which God wants to turn us away from.

Ø  The sins of those who oppose you and your faith because they oppose Christ.

Christ will not keep you from struggling and suffering in your life, for such things are part and parcel of the baptism and cup, the fight against sin, that defined His life. Baptized into Him and receiving Him in His body and blood, Jesus’ struggle and sacrifice also define our lives.

“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” James and John answered, “We are able.” What would your answer be? It should be, “I have.” For, you have been baptized into Christ. You do drink from the cup of His blood in Holy Communion. By doing so you are committing yourself to Jesus, to the will of His Father that He lived out. God defines your life. You are not your own, and your life is not your own to choose and live. You and your life are defined by Jesus. This is what you are embracing. Christ’s sacrifice and servanthood come with His baptism and His cup.

Who is worthy of this and able to serve as Jesus did? James and John said they were; but they had in mind places of glory and positions of honor. So did the other disciples, and they became angry with James and John and got into an argument with them. And this, shortly after Jesus had told them that in Jerusalem He was going to be rejected by Israel’s leaders, handed over to the Gentiles, and put to death! In spite of this their focus was on themselves and not Him. And you and I are no different. Thinking of ourselves first and worrying about ourselves is a struggle for each of us. It’s the essence of the sin that infects us and is part of our very flesh.

But sin no longer defines you. You have been baptized into the One who by His cross and resurrection overcame your sin and its judgment. As you eat of His body and drink of His cup you receive into your own flesh and blood the flesh and blood that hung on the cross to pay for your sins and end forever their threat and their power over you. The holy and ever-living Victor over sin fills you!

It is Jesus and His life that now defines your life. As He is the Father’s beloved Son, so you are a beloved child of God. As Jesus is exalted to the Father’s side on high, so you are exalted as a lord over all things; and especially over sin. Christ rules over it in you and through you! But, as Jesus came into this world to be a slave of all and serve sinners in order to save them, so in this world and life you are to be a slave of all and lead sinners to their God and Savior. There is no greater, no more blessed service. It is the life of the Son of Man, who came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Who is worthy of this? With His baptism and cup Jesus makes you worthy of this! By them He seats you with Him in glory! All praise be to Him forever! Amen.