Discipleship is Always, Ultimately Following Jesus
“Discipleship is always, ultimately following Jesus.”
Do you ever find it hard to work with fellow Christians? Do you find new Christians somewhat annoying in the way some of them find that new awakening in the Holy Spirit and now think they have all the answers? Have you ever been in ministry with Christians who think they know best and are willing to push everyone around until their version of the church is realized? If you have experienced this then you may very well know what Jesus is dealing with in this morning’s passage.
This story about the sons of Zebedee coming to ask Jesus about sitting in places of honor can be found both in Mark’s telling of the gospel and in Matthew’s. The issue is James and John perceive the kingdom of God is at hand and they want to sit in positions of honor and authority when Jesus enters into His kingdom. (pause) They have no idea what they are asking, or the responsibilities involved. In some ways they are like children who beg for a puppy because puppies are cute and cuddly. However, children very rarely have any idea about cleaning up after a puppy. Puppy’s chew things – a lot of things. Puppies have to be potty trained, house broken, trained, and taken for walks. Puppies are a lot of work and stereotypically when children get a puppy, as soon as reality sets in the child does not want to feed, walk, train, or clean up after the dog. Suddenly, it is Mommy and Daddy’s job.
Jesus is explaining to His disciples what discipleship is about. Jesus does not get to choose who sits at His right hand or His left. To come close to sitting in those seats requires being baptized with the baptism Jesus with the same baptism Jesus is about the be baptized. Like children crying for a puppy James and John naively assume, yes, they can be baptized with the same baptism Jesus is baptized.
Then Jesus lays it on James and John. Yes. Yes, they will be baptized with the same baptism Jesus will be baptized, and Yes, they will drink from the same cup Jesus’ drinks. After all this is what it means to be a disciple. To be a disciple is to follow Jesus. To be a disciple is to make more disciples. Being a disciple has nothing to do with what we want. Unless what we want is to follow Jesus. Being a disciple is not about our wants, preferences, or desires. As much fun as the things we want might be, following Jesus is better – much better.
Now, James and John asked to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand right in front of the other disciples. It did not go well. The others were indignant toward James and John. Indignant is a fancy word for angry or annoyed. The other disciples were annoyed or aggravated with James and John. Hadn’t they all left their homes and families to follow Jesus. Why should any of them receive any less that James and John? It reminds me of those Charlie Brown holiday specials. You know the one where Sally is trying to get Charlie Brown to write her letter to Santa. Then when Charlie Brown becomes indignant with Sally and walks off, Sally shouts, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” Consider for a moment what Jesus has just promised James and John. They will indeed receive Jesus’ baptism and drink from the cup the Christ drinks, but they will not drink wine and they will not be baptized in water. This is not a doctrine for rebaptism. Jesus is saying we have to take up our cross if we are to follow Jesus.
The Bible doesn’t tell us about the martyrdom of the Apostles, but the tradition of the Church tells us every one of them were killed for their faith. The Apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome. The Apostle Peter could not stand the idea of being crucified like his savior, so they crucified him upside down. Arrest; beating; crucifixion; these are the baptism of Jesus and the cup from which Jesus drank. Discipleship is not about our wants, preferences or desires. Discipleship is about following Jesus.
Most of us will not die for our faith. Most of us will not suffer for our faith, and yet for many of us tithing is too great a sacrifice. I think it is important to remember, what happens here, on these grounds or inside this building cannot be about personal preference. What happens here cannot be about avoiding the indignation of others. What happens in this place has to be about Christ. Everything we do in this building has to be about honoring Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Everything we do in this building has to be about following God’s direction, and obeying God’s will. Some things will vary from person to person, but this much is true for all of us.
Being a Disciples means living within the bounds of Christ’s love and direction for all of our lives. Being a disciple is not about following rules for the sake of saying I’m right, you’re wrong, we are good and they are bad. Being a disciple is about following Jesus. What does Jesus do? Jesus loves God the Father Almighty to the point of allowing Himself to be arrested, beaten, made fun of, spat upon, falsely convicted, beaten again, scourged with whips, His nakedness exposed, and then crucified until dead. Jesus did not want to do any of that, but Jesus loves God the Father so much Jesus endured it all – without complaint I might add. Jesus endured the cross out of love for God and love for all of you, and for me. No one is left out. Jesus loves God and Jesus loves all of us. Jesus’ true greatness is found in Jesus’ service and sacrifice for others.
Jesus explains this when Jesus says,
“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Genesis 10:42-45).
Another way to look at it is to say none of us are to set out to be princes in the kingdom of God. We are to set out to be the janitors, maids and garbage men of the kingdom of heaven because it is only through service to others that we find the very best things in Christ.
In the Name of Jesus Christ,