All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
In Mark’s gospel this week, the disciples continue to try to make sense of all that’s happening around them. Although they have traveled extensively with Jesus as a part of his inside-out, upside-down ministry, they still seem to have trouble wrapping their minds around what might be ahead as they follow their king.
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;” Mark 10:38-39
Zebedee’s sons, James and John, definitely want a piece of the messianic action — and some prime real estate on either side of Jesus’ throne in glory. We twenty-first century readers understand that these two disciples have no clue what they’re asking for.
The other disciples are indignant that the Zebedee brothers are vying for the best seats in the kingdom, and tension mounts. Again, Jesus instructs his followers about the real nature of leadership in the reign of God, reminding them that it is the exact opposite of what the world values.
Along with Mark’s original audience, we may easily make a viable connection between the suffering servant of Second Isaiah and Jesus. It is debatable whether the suffering servant was intended to depict the embodiment of the suffering of Israel, the experience of a prophet, or a key to understanding the suffering role that Jesus would assume — or any combination thereof.
We’re not much on suffering these days; our lives are pretty easy in North America. As the prophet says of his own people, we too “like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way.”
Yet Jesus invites us to join the “suffer” club as part of faithful and radical discipleship, to realize that in following him and in being part of the reign of God here and now, we open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to the realities of this beautiful yet broken world.
The thing about being part of the “suffer” club is this: there is beauty, joy, and hope in serving others. And when we suffer, or share the suffering of others, we learn what it means to be fully dependent on Jesus, our righteousness being perfected in each step of the journey. Finally, membership in the “suffer” club puts one in community across time, place, and context with others who bear the name of Christ. It’s a big club, with a vast table and good company, where there’s always room for one more.