From our liturgy last night, the Second Wednesday of Lent:
In the first reading, we hear the plot against Jeremiah, and we hear Jeremiah’s prayer to God. They set out to destroy Jeremiah based on his own words, words given from God, dangerous words, because they challenge the status quo.
And Jeremiah, then, pleading with God: Heed me, O Lord, listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them. Can you hear the parallels to Jesus’s journey?
Generations later, Jesus finds himself in the same predicament. We know that Jesus has the choice to say no, to turn away from the chalice. He knows how hard it will be, and he accepts it still. He willingly accepts this, the culmination of his journey here on Earth, his destiny.
Jesus tells his disciples what to expect. Condemnation to death. Given over to the Gentiles—in those days, few things could be worse. Mocked. Scourged. Crucified.
And raised on the third day.
Immediately after, we learn that James and John both want to take of the cup as well. They want the seats of honor, the bragging rights. Jesus challenges them, knowing what is in that cup.
They say they can take the cup. They say they will bear whatever comes their way in order to share in the honor. Jesus admonishes his friends, reminding them that to be great, one must be humble. One must do good not for the glory and the honor, but for Goodness’ sake. Jesus tells them that their reasoning is faulty. he again sets out what we must do to share in the glory. We must not look for our reward here. We must become servants. We must remember that we are least among all people.
In my social work coursework, we spent a lot of time talking about crises and crisis intervention. One of the greatest challenges in healing after a trauma is to repair what are known as core beliefs when they are shattered. A core belief is something that is deeply, deeply held, something ingrained in us so deeply that it is a very part of who we are. An example might be, ‘if I am a good person, if I do good deeds, if I help others, I will be rewarded.
Jesus is challenging one of the core beliefs of his disciples. He tells them their reward isn’t going to come any time soon, that he doesn’t make that determination. It’s a belief that many of us still hold on to today. Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? Where is my reward? Why aren’t good things happening to me?
Gently, always gently, Jesus tells us that it’s not for us to know or to question. Yes, he tells James and John, you will drink of this cup. You will know of this pain I will know. But what happens then, that is determined by God in Heaven. To get there, to be close to God, to have the seats of honor in Heaven, do not boost up yourself here in this life. The servant, the one who is the least valued and respected here on earth, that is the one who shall be first.
To be Christ-like, we must follow where Jesus walked. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of Humanity, the one whom we would expect to receive all the highest praise, honor, blessings, and gifts, Jesus will be the ultimate servant.
And as he told the twelve, he will be raised on the third day. There, always there, is our reward.