Feast of St. James the Elder 2011 Listen

Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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27 July Anno + Domini 2011 (Observed)
"It Is Enough to Have a Seat in the Kingdom”

Mark 10:35-45 (Acts 11:27-12:5; Rom. 8:28-39)

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

It sounds presumptuous, greedy, even selfish, doesn't it?  "Grant us to sit on Your right and Your left in glory, Lord.”  That's what James and John, the sons of Zebedee and of Salome, asked of their Lord.  Well, first, they told Him that they wanted Him to do for them whatever they asked of Him.  Then, they made this seemingly presumptuous request. 

The other disciples didn't like this at all.  They were indignant at James and John.  Who did these brothers think they were, anyway?  How dare they presume to ask this of their Lord?  What made them so special?  What made them think that they deserved such an honor? 

We can certainly understand why the other disciples were indignant, can't we?  I mean, after all, we would've probably reacted in the same way.  We don't like it much when others presume to think they're more deserving of honor than us, especially when it comes to spiritual matters.  We have been taught to believe, after all, that all men are created equal and have the same inalienable rights.  No one deserves more honor than another.  That's not fair.  We want our God to love everyone exactly the same - no more and no less than anyone else; no favorites, please. 

But, this request of James and John, which was prompted by their mother, Salome, was not made out of presumption, greed, or selfishness.  They loved their Lord and Teacher.  They wanted to be as close to Him as possible.  They weren't looking for positions of power.  Their intent was not evil.  They merely wanted to sit next to their Lord and be His servants, doing whatever He bade them to do.  And, besides, He had told them that He would grant whatever they asked in His Name.    

Nevertheless, they didn't know what they were asking.  Their request was not made out of presumption, greed, or selfishness, but it was made out of ignorance.  They didn't yet grasp what kind of Kingdom their Lord had come to establish.  They were still under the false belief that He had come to establish an earthly Kingdom and would simply transition into His glory at the appointed time.  They hadn't yet learned that suffering precedes glory in the Lord's Kingdom, which is built on Blood.   

So, the Lord uses this occasion to teach them and us.  "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  "We are able,” they answer, not having the first clue what their Lord was asking.  I bet the Lord grinned at their response.  They had answered correctly, even though they hadn't the foggiest idea what their answer entailed.  They would drink the cup of suffering and would be baptized through fire and wrath into the Kingdom.  In fact, James, whom we honor this evening, would be the first of the Twelve to be martyred for the faith.  He would be cut down by the sword of Herod.  John, on the other hand, would be the last of the Twelve to be martyred.  It is often pointed out that John is the only one of the Twelve not to suffer martyrdom, since he died a natural death.  While this is technically true, it doesn't make John any less a martyr than the others.  Truth be told, when you think about it, John suffered more than the rest, having to watch all of his brothers be slain for the faith, and having had to endure the suffering and persecution which comes with a long life of being an apostle in Christ's Church.  Oh yes, John did indeed drink of the cup of suffering and was baptized through fire and wrath into the Kingdom, just like his brother, James, and all the rest.

So, while James and John were right in answering their Lord about being able to drink from the cup and to be baptized with His baptism - His death, what they failed to understand, along with the other disciples, is the nature of the Kingdom their Lord came to establish.  His Kingdom is not like the kingdoms of this world.  In His Kingdom, the King is slave to all, the strong are weak, the faithful are full of doubts, the victors lose, the living die, and the masters serve.  In the Lord's Kingdom of Grace, the first are last and the last are first. 

But, what these beloved saints didn't know then, they know fully now.  They have gone to their reward.  They didn't love their lives unto death, but were willing to lose their lives for Christ's sake.  Their understanding came after their Lord laid His life down on the cross for their sins, and for the sins of the whole world, including yours and mine.  They got it when He appeared to them bearing the scars of salvation upon His Body.  And, filled with the Holy Spirit, they preached Christ Crucified right up to their dying breath, bringing salvation unto many others through the power of the Gospel.  I am sure that, looking back, James and John felt a little silly about making this request of their Lord, for they were taught through suffering that it doesn't matter where they would be seated in glory, but only that they would be privileged and honored to enter that glory in their Lord's Kingdom, which has no end.  And, they were taught to have the attitude of Christ, being willing to gladly lay aside their own glory for the sake of others. 

So it is with us, dear friends in Christ.  It matters not where we sit in the Kingdom, but only that we get there, for there are no bad seats in the Lord's House.  Truth be told, we don't deserve to enter the Kingdom at all.  Neither did James and John, or the other disciples.  But, as St. Paul reminds us, "We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  Through Christ, the Kingdom is ours.  He lived, died, rose again, and ascended to make it so.  And, to ensure that our place in the Kingdom is secure, He descends to be with us here in His Holy House that we might already dine upon the eternal Food and Drink of His Kingdom, His very Body and Blood.  As for where we will sit when He calls us home, who cares?  Let it suffice for us to know that nothing, "neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.