On this Ash Wednesday, we keep in mind that Jesus died for us and that our sin caused God to grieve so much that he was willing to sacrifice His Son. It is not a feel good story, or a feel good day. It is a day to recognize our sin. If you come to the services today you will notice that we don’t focus on the individual sin. In the past Ash Wednesday and really the entire season of Lent has encouraged us to focus on how we fall short of God’s glory as individuals. It is a pietistic laden season where we fast, give something up, and in the general think about how my personal relationship with God is. The Scriptures point to a different kind of a Lent. Scripture points to one where we think about who we are as a community, or in our case, a church.
The dynamic of Jesus and his disciples, as a group, has always fascinated me. These verses, especially, create a question in my mind that you don’t see in other verses. This is one of the few times, if not the only time, that you see some dissension among the ranks. You see the disciples not being really happy with each other. You would imagine that living together 24/7 for 3 years would create some feelings and some stressful times that just might translate into times and periods of animosity. This was one of those times.
The desire of James and John to be given the seats of honor in glory is a strange request. Jesus asks them if they are willing to die the type of martyr’s death that Jesus eventually will assume. They say that they are. Then we read that the other disciples become indignant with James and John. At that point Jesus calls all of them together and teaches them about what it means to be the first in the kingdom of God. It means that you are a servant, put yourself last. You have already missed the point if you are asking to be put first, because that means that you have completely misunderstood what Jesus is all about.