Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Calling Shotgun

I am preaching tomorrow at a community-wide Lenten service. It is wonderful to join with other Christians through the season of Lent. As we approach Resurrection Sunday, we remember Jesus’ journey to the Cross. Tomorrow’s text is Mark 10:32-45.

In this passage, Jesus and his disciples are making the final trip to Jerusalem. Jesus, once again, describes what is going to happen.

(Mark 10:33-34 NIV) “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

Jesus is entirely clear. You would think the mood should be solemn. The following conversation illustrates for us how much the disciples do not get it. In verse 35, James and John have a request.

(Mark 10:35 NIV) Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

They want the seat of honor in the new kingdom. Jesus redefines this seat as a place of sacrifice. While they assured Jesus of their willingness to drink the cup, they unlikely understood what they were asking.

When I was a kid, we would make claims on the front seat of the car by calling Shotgun!. We wanted the best seat and made the effort to step up and call it. This is what James and John are doing. The other disciples are not pleased with their behavior (verse 41) and we might imagine a heated exchange between the disciples. This sets the stage for Jesus’ teaching in verses 42-45.

(Mark 10:42-45 NIV) Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus defines the posture of the Kingdom. While the world is about power, prestige and privilege, Jesus calls his disciples toward a bottom-up orientation. If you want to be first, then be slave. If you want to be great, then make yourself the least.

As we consider the issue of discernment, we must remind ourselves of this orientation. The very nature of discerning involves laying power, prestige and privilege to the side. As discerning churches, may we remember this story. May we be reminded of our tendency to call the best seat in the house and the inappropriate nature of such a claim. May we learn to follow the example of Jesus by laying aside position in order to serve.