So, there you are. Walking down the street with someone you love and respect when they tell you that in a couple of days not only are they going to suffer and die, three days later they’re going to come back to life. What would be the first thing that comes to mind? How would you respond to that bombshell?[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/354630-fast-forward.mp3]
Would you suggest there was a certain amount of crazy-talk there? Would you say that was a ridiculous idea? Or would you, like James and John, respond by asking that this person that you love and respect elevate you above all your friends and acquaintances to positions of honor, positions over and above everyone else?
That’s kind of what James and John get up to here. They manage to pretty much ignore what Jesus has just said to them as they skip over the whole suffering, death and resurrection bits and jump straight to a royal kind of parade that they want to have exalted positions in. They want to fast forward to the glorious ending, skipping over all the hard things that come first. It is a classic case of listening to respond rather than listening to hear.
We’re prone to fast forward aren’t we? We have a tendency to want to get to the good stuff at the end without the hard work that is necessary to get there.
I’ll be honest. In many ways I’d like to have Lent be about three weeks instead of seven. We’d have Ash Wednesday to get us started thinking about ashes and dust. We’d get started thinking about the idea that our existence is temporary. Then we’d spend the next week continuing our Lenten-y stuff. You know, thinking about our temporary existence while we give up chocolate, soda or bacon for a couple of weeks. And then we’d jump straight to Holy Week so that we could do all the Holy Week stuff and then have Easter. Easter bunny, head to church for a bit of worship and then home for some ham and scalloped potatoes.
Then we’d be all ready for Christmas stuff to show up in the stores. And so the cycle begins again. No fuss, no muss.
Doesn’t that seem like how it goes? We’re prone to fast forward, aren’t we?
James and John do the same thing. To be fair, they don’t know what all this looks like. They’ve just had Jesus telling them. They don’t yet know what this whole Jesus being tried, convicted and crucified on a cross scenario is going to look like. No doubt they know what crucifixion is. It was a common Roman way of getting rid of people who were a threat to the regime. After all, a horrific, torturous, public execution is a good way of terrorizing the general populace. But James and John don’t yet have the benefit of hindsight like we do. We know how all this works out. We know, as Jesus tells them, they are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.” We know that Jesus comes back from the dead but they just don’t understand what’s coming. And the whole life after death, coming back from the dead, resurrection business is really beyond them.
Jesus attempts to explain what is up with all this death and resurrection business. Or tries to. Resurrection is kind of a tough concept to explain. I mean really. How does one explain life after death? It defies logic and common sense and even though they’ve seen Jesus do some miraculous things healing people and bringing them back to life James and John kind of fast forward through all of that and ask to sit at Jesus’ side, elevated above the other disciples.
They want to fast forward through all the hard work and jump straight to the good stuff. They want to ignore the pain and suffering of death and the mystery of resurrection and move straight into what they see as the ease and comfort of being by Jesus side.
James and John haven’t yet grasped what it will mean to be at Jesus’ side. There are a couple of criminals who learned what that meant as they hung on crosses on either side of Jesus but that’s a story for later in Holy Week and we don’t want to fast forward to that just yet, now do we?
We’re already in a season where life moves pretty fast, aren’t we? We just finished with state wrestling and boys and girls state basketball tournaments are coming. The weather is improving and will soon be time to start working in the yard and getting gardens ready. Pitchers and catchers have reported to training camp. Fieldwork will be starting pretty soon. It’s a busy season that moves faster and faster as we move toward spring and a season of renewed life.
Lent suggests that instead of fast forwarding into a new season of renewed life that we wait a bit. It isn’t too much of a stretch to suggest that how long we’ll wait for something is directly correlated to how important to us that something is. I guess I’m thinking about the pictures you see of people camping out in line waiting for tickets to the newest and hottest movie. I guess I’m thinking about the pictures you see of people camping out in line waiting to get the newest iPhone release. We’re willing to wait for things that we really value.
Lent suggests that instead of fast forwarding to the end of the story, that instead of fast forwarding to the dramatic climax of resurrection and hope in eternal life, that we spend some time waiting. Don’t get in a big hurry and spend some time thinking about Jesus and what Jesus has done for us. Spend some time thinking about our baptism and the promise of what it really means to baptized into Christ.
Our faith practices strengthen our relationship with God and every soled relationship takes some work. Lent is a good time to spend some time renewing our faith practices. While we wait for the good stuff of Easter, Lent is a good time to reflect on our prayer life. How much time do we actually spend in intentional prayer? While we wait for the good stuff of Easter, Lent is a good time to reflect on our Bible study life. How much time do we actually spend reading God’s word to us in the Bible? While we wait for the good stuff of Easter, Lent is a good time to reflect on the one who gives us hope. The sure and certain hope of forgiveness and eternal life.