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The Paschal Mystery

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Jesus: The Servant

The Paschal Mystery
Friday, March 13, 2015

Jesus is very patient with his disciples, which is good news for all of us. We also have a hard time understanding the “paschal mystery,” which is indeed a deep mystery—that the way up is the way down. The way Jesus leads and teaches is not the way we usually want to go. Let’s be completely honest about that. Hardly anyone goes willingly. It is often done unto us.

Right after Jesus told the disciples a second time that “The son of man is going to be delivered into the hands of people who will put him to death. But three days after he is killed, he will rise” (Mark 9:31), the disciples start “arguing about which of them was the most important.” (You might laugh or cry at how the disciples miss the point.) So Jesus sat down, called the twelve around him, and explained, “Anyone who wants to be the most important has to be the least important—the servant of all the others” (Mark 9:34-35). Just like the Twelve, we usually want to be on top, but Jesus calls us to be free and happy at the bottom. We all want to be the boss, but he tells us to be servants.

A third time, as Jesus and the disciples were heading for Jerusalem, Jesus again explained how he will suffer, die, and rise (Mark 10:33-34). Yet how did the disciples respond? James and John asked if they could sit in glory at his side when he established the messianic kingdom (Mark 10:35-37). You can almost hear the sigh and sadness in the depths of Jesus’ heart when he heard their request. He turned to them and said: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I will drink, or be immersed in the same bath that I will be immersed in?” (Mark 10:38). Jesus was trying to bring them back to reality, the inevitable reality of any human life.

The other disciples became indignant when they heard what James and John were asking. Once again Jesus had to explain to them: “You know how the so-called rulers of nations like to lord it over the people? And how those at the top like to make their authority felt? Well, with you it has to be different. If you want to be important, serve others. The son of man himself did not come to be served but to serve, to give his life so that everyone might be set free” (Mark 10:42-45). Jesus offered the world a new pattern of power and leadership, which few in church or state have ever really agreed with.

If only the Church had shared Jesus’ bias toward the bottom the past two thousand years! If only we had seriously believed him, how much sooner we would have seen the coming of peace and justice on this earth. If only we had truly listened to the Gospel, how differently Western history would have unfolded. Instead, we have made easy and happy friends with power, prestige, perks, and possessions—even in the name of God and the Church.

Gateway to Silence:
The way down is the way up.

Adapted from Great Themes of Scripture: New Testament, pp. 42-45 (published by Franciscan Media)

Image credit: Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet (1852-56/detail), Ford Madox Brown, Tate Gallery, London
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