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10.18.09 Can’t Sit Before Your Time, Hebrews 5:1-10, Mark 10:35-45 Sermon Summary

by on October 19, 2009

One of the main points of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus is superior. From the opening verses of this book, the superiority of Jesus is asserted over angels, prophets, and now priests. But Jesus’ superiority isn’t tied to his conception by the Holy Spirit, or his being the incarnation of the Word of God. No, Jesus’ superiority, according to Hebrews, results from his submission and suffering.

The favorite image of Jesus in the book of Hebrews is as High Priest. A priest is, of course, someone who mediates between God and humans. According to today’s passage, there are four characteristics of Jesus’ priesthood. He is (1) called by God, as are all priests; (2) he responded to this call, and continued to respond throughout his life; (3) he became the source of salvation; (4) his priesthood became perpetual, “in the order of Melchizedek,” the mysterious Older Testament priestly character who had no beginning or end.

The key characteristic, according to Hebrews, is that Jesus responded to his calling to be a priest, and he continued to respond throughout his life. It was Jesus’ continual submission to his call that led to his suffering, which led to his superiority.

Contrast this sequence with that of James and John in the Gospel reading. They, like Jesus, recognized him as called. They witnessed his teaching and lifestyle. They would have known about his baptism during which God claimed Jesus as his own. James and John also predicted his superiority. They come to him requesting to sit on either side of him when he comes into his kingdom.

But what they failed to recognize is the path by which Jesus would arrive at superiority. They failed to see that Jesus would continue to respond to God’s calling on his life, and that this faithful submission would eventuate in suffering. They failed, despite the fact that Jesus had just foretold this outcome for the third time.

And so Jesus responds to the disciples with another summery of his fundamental teaching. Greatness comes through service; the last will be first; to find our lives, we must lose them. Then Jesus invites his disciples into the reality of the cup and the font. He doesn’t refer to the cup of salvation, but to that of suffering. And he doesn’t refer to the waters of adoption, but to those of obedience.

When James and John want to sit, Jesus says they may not, not before their time. Their calling, as disciples of Jesus, is the same as that of Jesus: to be submissive to God’s leading, in service to others, which will entail suffering, but will result in life. Today this is still our calling as Jesus’ disciples.

Jesus is our High Priest, superior to all others. And by his cup and baptism, we are made his priesthood. So the question to us today is, Will we respond to God’s calling upon our lives as a priesthood? Will we experience the salvation of Christ? We will if we serve others. And as we lose our lives in service to others, we will find our lives with Christ. And our salvation, like his, will last forever.

Questions for Reflection

Jesus’ superiority, according to Hebrews, is the result of a very human activity, namely being faithful to God. How does this perspective change your appreciation of Jesus, and what it means that he calls us to follow him?

Jesus says his disciples will drink from his cup and share his baptism. Both sacraments speak of Christ’s death and resurrection. How is God calling you to die; how is God calling you to live?

If Jesus’ fundamental teaching is that the path to finding our lives is losing them in service to others, how faithful are you in following Jesus?

One Comment
  1. Hey Tom–thanks for posting! I enjoyed reading through this. Reminded me of an insight of a friend of mine, re: Philippians 2:6. Jesus, “being in very nature God, humbled himself…”– It was not IN SPITE of the nature he shared with God, but BECAUSE of it, that he chose submission and suffering.

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