For the thrid time Jesus has just explained to the disciples that he must suffer and die. While the disciples are astonished that Jesus continues the journey to Jerusalem they are too afraid to talk about his impending humiliation.
They are not too afraid to ask for insider perks. James and John ask to sit at his right and left hand when he comes in His glory. They are anticipating big gains. They want to be in on the initial public offering.
Jesus then makes clear that his glory will be his cross. Will you be able to be able to drink the cup I drink? Will you be able to undergo my baptism? We know the cup Christ drinks is the cup of wrath. This cup is poured out on the cross. The baptism Christ undergoes is to take our place on the cross.
Christ invites his disciples to participate in the salvific event of the cross through the sacraments of Communion and Baptism. The participation in the Bread and the Cup, the participation in Baptism are not mere symbols or observances. These spiritual acts are participation in the very cross of our salvation. As Paul writes, when we are baptized into Christ we baptized into his death so that we may be raised to a new life in Him.
Communion and Baptism are particpations in the Cross of Jesus. The Cross of Jesus is where the glory of the Son of Man is displayed.
James and John say they can do it. They can do the cross. They don’t. They hide. The right and left hand when Jesus is in his glory has been reserved for two criminals.
Then the other ten disciples catch whiff of what scheme James and John are plotting. They are indignant! How dare they! Upset that James and John asked first, an argument breaks out that Jesus has to quell and redirect.
The kingdom of God is not about human power and perrogatives. Power exercised outside of authority is tryanny. The power of God can only be exercised if we are in relationship with him, if we understand our full identity as Christ’s disciples. That is wwhat gives us authority to exercise the power.
When we see that clearly then we understand what Jesus says next. I did not come to be served, but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many.
The power of God is displayed not by dominence, but servanthood. When one is in relationship with God this authority flows straight forward.