The other day after school, our daughter asked me to help her with something. Frankly, I was a bit busy and I felt like being cheeky (that truly is the story of my life), so I said, “Hm, let’s see, do you deserve my help? Have you been good?” And she had this look on her face that made me instantly regret asking such a potentially damaging and theologically improper question to a 7 year old, but it wasn’t what you might think.
She had a smug look on her face, almost to say, “I can get this because I’ve been good? In that case, I’ve been so good that I probably deserve THE WORLD”
No, really, I never seen her look so confident for anything in my life. I was kind of surprised. But then I immediately assured her that I would have helped her regardless, and that she was nowhere near well behaved enough to have deserved it, so she should count her blessings instead. That’s parenting level 1000, in case you didn’t recognize it.
These disciples, I tell ya. By my count, this is the third time that Jesus tried to explain to them what it means to be the Messiah, and the third time they said, “yup, uh-huh, can we have something to show off our power?”
And I’d admit that it’s pretty easy for us to shake our heads and roll our eyes at these disciples and think that they’re idiots. But upon a bit of reflection, maybe we can understand their thought process a bit better. I mean, they have been conditioned to think that the world revolves around the powerful just as much as we have. They we raised in a world of hierarchies and rulers and where privilege was something to be sought after, just like we were. They thought that if they do good, they get good, just like how we often do off the bat and perhaps correct ourselves later, if at all. So maybe, just maybe, their inability to understand Jesus’ words might not be so far fetched at all.
Because we like order. We like fairness. And we like it when all of that stuff revolves around us.
But Jesus says that isn’t the case, not really at least. Things do revolve around us, but just not us as us. Rather, things revolve around us as the other. Confused? Me too, sort of.
What I mean is that when we are in the world, we aren’t called to cater to only our own needs and step on the backs of others. Rather, we’re called to look at the needs of others and do what we can to help. In turn, the others in the world are called to do that for us. And this form of mutual service and community is the plan that God had for us all along. It does revolve around us, but just not in the way that elevates us above anyone else.
And so putting that way, the whole “first will be last and the last will be first” thing sort of makes sense. It helps us in our humility and service to others. It reveals to us just how much God loves us all, and how we are regarded as God’s beloved, even when we aren’t even close to deserving it.
Thanks be to God! Have a great week, everyone!