The Holy Gospel: Octobber 21, 2012 (Year B)

Read: Mark 10:35-45

Meditation:  “Oops!”

Jesus repeats the forecast of his pending crucifixion and resurrection in the verses skipped over in getting to today’s lesson.

But no sooner had he used the encounter with the man in 10:17-31 to restate the necessity of abandoning self-reliance, than James and John came up to him wanting him to do what they wanted him to do—and it was a humdinger: choose them to sit on his right hand in glory!  (Did we read that right?  Surely not!)

All we can say in response to what is a preposterous request is, “Oops!”

And through this experience we are reminded of “how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God” (10:23).  We keep putting our “all on the altar” and then returning to take pieces of it back into our own hands.  We keep seeking God’s wisdom, and then turning right around and operating by our own ideas.

“Give me what I want,” we say, not long after we have prayed, “Not my will, but thine be done.”  Oops!

E. Stanley Jones was the first person to show me that between Caesarea Philippi and Jerusalem, Jesus’ journey with his disciples was one of cleaning up their messes, one after another.  Their intention to get it right was smashed on the rocky road of reality, as they said and did things over and over which were directly opposite to Jesus’ will and way.

He must have thought more than once, “I’m not sure this faith is going to survive after I’m gone.”

But the amazing thing that emerges from today’s lesson is that even though the disciples had to say “Oops!” often, it doesn’t seem that Jesus ever said it—it doesn’t seem that he ever second-guessed his choice of those whom he called apostles.

Weak?  Oh yes.  Disappointing?  No doubt.  Inconsistent?  You bet.  In need of multiple makeovers?  Always!   But he never said, “Oops!”

Why?  Most likely because Jesus could see through their shortcomings to the people they would be after Pentecost, as they came to be filled, empowered, and guided by the Holy Spirit.  Thanks be to God that he can still see through us, to what we can be when Jesus is Lord!  Thanks be to God that he has never said, “Oops!” even when we have to.


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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