Mark 10:41

On hearing of this, the ten others were at first very indignant about James and John.

well of course
when on others we have called
behind yet another’s back
there is mistrust anger

here the aggrieved can remember
all the teachings about generous sharing
for here we are not shared with
to which comes the cry unfair

John and James are to blame
we would never have tried that
unless maybe perhaps
we’d thought of it first

inasmuch as we didn’t
our anger is exponentially increased
by adding righteousness to our claim
this unfairness is raised by god

To claim a special place is the same as denying a claim anyone else might make for the same place. James and John made a preemptive strike against the other ten (not to mention Mary Magdalene and other women or any of the children Jesus lifted and blessed).

And now we can play the game of “You and Them Fight”. Readers can even begin to imagine how they might have attacked Jesus to gain a privilege of place and turn this into a three-way tug-of-war instead of just two factions within the Twelve. To climb the ladder in a uniformed church or to have a successful schism is indication of condensing multiple interests into an either-or wedge issue or tug-of-war. With two there can be a winner and loser. With more participants it is more difficult to be clear about an ultimate duality.

How would your reading so far suggest that Jesus enter into this pull and push of authority? Is there a parable from the first half of Mark that might make a comeback? Will it turn into a different pairing of Jesus against the Twelve? Will this not be addressed until the ironic moment when those at Jesus’ right and left turn out to be thieves?

Trying to figure out “What Would Jesus Do?” is ultimately not predictable. Rather, listen to the last time Mark used ἀγανακτέω (aganakteō, indignant), 10:14—Jesus was indignant to the point of anger and said, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them….”

Do we get indignant about someone beating us at our own game (Twelve’s usage) or toward anyone who is beating up on someone seen to be weaker (Jesus’ usage)? This is a Jerusalem bound question.

Mark 10:40

but as to a seat at my right or at my left – that is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

honor is not earned
there is no course work
authorizing post-name letters
proclaiming privilege

honor simply is lived
day in and day out
surrounded by opportunity
to live a simple honor

that which I get
is that which I offer
for others we share
with others we feast

Positioning within a partnership is not something that can be given. With agency appropriate to each by gift and circumstance, the question is: “What is grasped and carried through?”

To ask for a special position (or assume its due) is an inappropriate short-cut. Like helping a butterfly to emerge without its own work, being given privilege always weakens.

The preparation here is not in the arena of predestination. We can stop dreaming that it is ourself for whom this particular bell tolls.

There is no preparation we can do to fall into a prepared slot that won’t distract us from all that is needed in the moment.

Swanson233 reflects on this Peter Principle gap:

This scene is loaded with ritual references: rituals of drinking, rituals of washing, rituals of entry into glory. The rituals of drinking and washing sound as if Jesus expects them to be danced out in time and space to which we have access. The disciples appear to be far more interested in the rituals of entry into glory and sitting on Jesus’ right and left. James and John demand places of honor in a place discontinuous with any place we can go. The other disciples are angry because they share the same naïve view of this place. It would be worth asking whether and to what extent religious wrath is rooted in naïve notions of rituals of entry into places no one can go.

Swanson goes on to imagine the disciples are fantasizing about revolutionary battle in which they emerge unscathed and are ready to rule. He likens this to draftees, “green soldiers”, who know nothing about the reality of battle and the scars it leaves on everyone up and down the supply line that has funneled a few to the front. He reviews other revolutions and the lack of leadership that is developed in all but a few (Nicaragua and South Africa come to mind when retribution was not the order of the day).

Let the chips of hospitality and service fall where they will.

Mark 10:39

“Yes,” they answered, “we can.” 
“You will indeed drink the cup that I am to drink,” Jesus said, “and receive the baptism that I am to receive,

ouch of course we prepared

then you know your path
within our wayfaring

the consequence of congruity
in a multi-dimensional constraint
will come easily apart

the particular location you hold
will bring both result and
resultant disjuncture of changed behavior

living water found within or around
will claim its pound of flesh

for this we’re never prepared

Fortunately James and John had paid enough attention that they knew that they, and all, could come to what John Wesley called, “perfection”, which in his day meant completedness, fully partnered with the cosmos and one’s meaning in life.

The Greek Orthodox carry this on with their understanding of theosis or deification of humanity. The following quotes from www.greekorthodox move toward a needed partnership.

The energies of God are divine energies…. They are God, and therefore they can deify man. If the energies of God were not divine and uncreated, they would not be God and so they would not be able to deify us, to unite us with God. There would be an unbridgeable distance between God and men. But by virtue of God having divine energies, and by uniting with us by these energies, we are able to commune with Him and to unite with His Grace without becoming identical with God ….

As long as we are closed within ourselves – within our ego – we are individuals but not persons. Once we exit from our closed individual existence and begin, in agreement with this guidance based on Theosis, with the Grace of God, but also with our own cooperation – to love, to offer ourselves all the more to Him and to our neighbour, we become true persons. This is to say that when our “I” encounters the “Thou” of God, and the “you” of our brother, then we begin to find our lost self. For within the communion in Theosis for which we were moulded, we are able to open up, to communicate, to really enjoy one another … and not only in a selfish way.

And to this affirmation by James and John, Jesus says, “Amen.”

Mark 10:38

“You do not know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup that I am to drink? Or receive the baptism that I am to receive?” 

of all the questions
this is the most mistaken

point 8 of my 16 point plan
clearly included a cross

you don’t get vicarious glory
there is no virtual reality here

if this is your question
a review is in order

baptism’s and Socrates’ cup
are specifically monogrammed

your pregnant behavior is yours
your acts of commitment are yours

we teach and learn assured accountability
copying answers to different settings fails

did you not read your notes
before setting up this appointment

What the …! Did you do any of the reading? Attend any class?

The sense of bewilderment comes out of the unwitting return to individual aggrandizement at the expense of mutuality. There is no sense of service in the request James and John bring. Their hearts have not been softened enough.

With that immediate response expressed, Jesus seems to shake his head and attempt to bring the brothers back to the point he has been making.

In the Hebrew scriptures, the figure of a cup is often used to indicate suffering. One example is Isaiah 51:17-22. In The New Revised Standard Version we read about a cup aptly described as a “bowl of staggering”. Suffering can stagger us.

Baptismal liturgies still carry Paul’s understanding from Romans 6:3, “Don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

In these two questions we have a prompting to remember the first two points of Jesus’ latest sermon: “Suffering, Death, and Resurrection”. This reminder is given in hope that popular images of resurrection or heaven will be critiqued rather than extending their current weakened understanding of both to a zero-sum game of winners and losers. To revisit suffering and death gives opportunity to recast resurrection away from triumph to ordinary relationships with one another.

Mark 10:37

“Grant us this,” they answered, “to sit, one on your right, and the other on your left, when you come in glory.” 

well Don Jesus
when on others you are judging
do not fail to let us in
on the fun of a last kiss

we will gladly offer
our thumbs added to yours
once in awhile raised in mercy
just to raise a false hope or two

these minions are always falling
short an irredeemable lot
they love to feast
but never pick up after themselves

when healed they freely blab
what is to be a family secret
they are only to move
when you preface with Jesus Says

so when gloriously judging
we want in on the gory act
of separating saint from sinner
and saint from saint

Mark’s grammar gives us the content of what is being asked but doesn’t reveal the intent or motivation.

The crassness of the ask assists us in finally coming clear. Privilege and ease are deep within our first nature. These refuse to acknowledge suffering and death. Finding or making-up loopholes to avoid them is our vocation, our entire métier.

This request is as old as the fantasy in Eden that there is a shortcut to privilege (open eyes able to correctly interpret all things) and ease (being G*D). If we can just eat the right food all else will fall into place. If we can just get pre-approval of our desire we can do what we want.

One way or another, our participation in the biggest triumph imaginable will be—not just squeaking into “eternal life” but directing it from a glorious position—high and lifted up.

It is helpful to consider this from a variety of cultural viewpoints. Bratcher332 makes a helpful connection with our desire to be gloriously lifted and blessed.

In Eastern Otomi the only equivalent is “greatness” and in Mazahua a phrase “where you are in command” has been used. At first thought this latter term would not seem to be adequate, but a man’s glory or distinction is generally spoken of in terms of his commanding position or authority, in which case the phrase seems to fit the context quite well.

How easily our desire for command and control is unmasked.

Mark 10:36

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

when about to be played
for the Oke-Doke
clarity is your friend

you may still be played
but the field is evener
when the deal is on record

when asking for a world
not available
what part crystallizes your request

when we get the terms straight
we’ll see if a deal can be struck
or if you’ll strike out

This same question will be used in a different setting (10:51) when blind Bartimaeus cries out for “mercy”. Whether the situation is a manipulative one (internally with James and John) or an up-front ask (externally with Bartimaeus), there is wisdom in clarifying what is being asked.

Parents quickly learn to ask this question when their children are trying to wheedle something out of them or have a naïve question that doesn’t need a yard-long answer complete with footnotes.

This is a question that honors even unhonorable inquiries. This begins to put us in a partnership relationship rather than one where the privileged party is able to make assumptions about what the request really is about and become compromised and trapped by their response. This would have been a good question for Herod to ask rather than venturing forth with a grand gesture.

Having read Mark this far, it is a good time to ask this question of ourself. Simply in terms of Chapter 10, we might wonder: What or whom are we trying to separate from and find the easiest way to achieve our goal? Why are we not experiencing being picked up and blessed? What currency or current ideation do we hold dearer than a larger integrity? How controlling are our fears of suffering and death? How might we guarantee a privileged place in a better place? What aspect of mercy are we specifically in need of?

Even though Mark’s Greek has some difficulties, the import is clear enough. In both matter and spirit (knowing they cannot be neatly separated) “the devil is in the details”.

Spending a few extra moments in clarifying what is at stake for all the parties involved goes a long way to keeping our intentions in accord with our behavior. This is particularly important around “spiritual” matters where it is all too easy to say more than we know.

Mark 10:35

James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, went to Jesus, and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 

first get a vague agreement
then let your punch go

once you asked us
to follow where you lead

now we ask you
to follow where we lead

partnership is a big deal
and is to go both ways

we’ve agreed to partner with you
now we need your agreement with us

if you’re going to work through us
we need a little something from you

so what do you say anyway
do we have a deal or not

After each of the major announcements of suffering, death, and resurrection there is a response from someone that reveals they have jumped to resurrection without ever having to deal with its reality of only arriving after suffering and death.

After 8:31, Peter rebukes Jesus for even mentioning suffering. After 9:31, the Twelve were caught arguing about which of them was the greatest (would be least likely to have to suffer). Now, after 10:33, James and John claim a privileged place (jumping from this moment to eternal life).

Children always attempt this same gambit of getting a pre-agreement for something they want. This ploy is as old as the hills. It should be able to be seen through as the “looking for something for nothing” that it is.

There is also an on-going blood family issue happening here. Peter, James, and John are obviously the three with the closest ties with Jesus. They all had ring-side seats at the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the appearance of Moses and Elijah. If there were going to be two honored after this successful journey to rule from heaven, two to sit at Jesus’ right and left, how could either James and John be left out. Far better to be proactive this side of heaven and cut Peter out now.

These family issues seem not to go away. Remember back to 2:31-35 when Jesus’ mother and siblings came asking for him, and the redefinition of family he gave. The focus given then on what it means to be partnered with G*D comes back here with a question: Will there be any top place in a new heaven? Not even for Jesus?

Mark 10:34

who will mock him, spit on him, and scourge him, and put him to death; and after three days he will rise again.”

see what I did there
I took your last straw
and turned it to gold

when you saw only defeat
a new glimmer shines
all may or may not be lost

if it is it is
if it isn’t it isn’t

ridicule turned despair
torture ends in death
all may or may not be regained

if it is it is
if it isn’t it isn’t

at some point seas change
polarity shifts around
all may or may not be transformed

if it is it is
if it isn’t it isn’t

your golden boy
became a disposable
see what I did there

It is one thing to have a sense of being condemned and the finality of death. It is another to drill down through those into specific actions that will be occurring along the way leading to death. The specifics of the suffering before death often capture our imagination so strongly that we are put off from acting in such a way that they might come our way. Self-censorship that keeps us from acts of redemption or healing is all too real.

This is particularly true thousands of years after our exemplar. The Church has so been captured by social norms and a substitution of politeness for prophecy that it seems to take a super-human effort to willingly accept taunting and torture. For these it takes an extended journey into the wilderness to not allow them to determine the outcome of what it means to partner with G*D and Neighb*r.

Since this Jerusalem journey is for both Jesus and the Twelve, we can keep ready to find a series of responses to the threats of mockery, ritual dismissal, physical pain, and, finally, death. In these responses there will be plenty of material to see how deeply toward a wilderness retreat the various persons have traveled. These will range from a pre-emptive giving up (betrayal), to varieties of denial, to holding steady with a good news that goes beyond news cycles.

Mark 10:33

“Listen!” he said. “We are going up to Jerusalem; and there the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, and they will condemn him to death, and they will give him up to the Gentiles,

look we’re going
to our heart’s desire
but are doing so
through the back door

we’ll walk right in
and sit right down
a stumbling block
to a blind automaton

when they catch on
it will be too late
to avoid a consequential
news of good results

our heart ache
will not be a loss
even death
but miscondemnation

our heart joy
revealing a better basis
for larger partnering
through nonindifference

Indeed, recognizing a corner has been turned and we are on our way to the center of all things “first” and that we will deal with as though they were “last” raises our best hopes and darkest nightmares. This recognition comes even before making a final turn to ascend to Jerusalem from low-lying Jericho.

Beyond recognition of a directional shift is the stating of it.

Readers may have been able to slide by the first two announcements of the consequences of partnering with (loving) both G*D and Neighb*r (8:31; 9:31). Now, taken aside with the Twelve, we are essentially a Thirteenth who is being trained, should one of the Twelve not be able to be present.

Three announcements of suffering, death, and resurrection become the frame by which the Journey to Jerusalem and subsequent consequences of all that has gone before comes clear. Now we are able to review all that has gone before the first announcement in 8:31 to see what it means to be human, to live again in relationship to all of creation and one another. This includes calming storms, external and internal, and healing a variety of brokennesses.

What it might mean to be “handed over” is not yet clear. Except for its foreshadowing of a deliberate act, there is value in not going beyond the already known antagonism of the chief priests and scribes. Here Bratcher329 suggests the use of an equivalent phrase, “the Son of man will come under the control of”. This leads to another shift with the unhelpful identifier of “Gentiles”. The reference is more specifically oriented to the foreign occupiers, the Romans.

Mark 10:32

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, with Jesus walking in front of them. The disciples were filled with awe, while those who were following behind were overwhelmed with fear. Gathering the Twelve around him once more, Jesus began to tell them what was about to happen to him.

on a journey upward
eyes are differently oriented

in the front range possibilities
to be chased for touching

in the pack we search each other
amazed to be along for the pilgrimage

finally the past pulls a glance
over a fearful salty shoulder

into this normal system’s scattergram
a self-reflective moment arises

a pause along a path
to clarify and refresh

possibilities take on probabilities
shifting amazement to participation

The social order has been overturned with the recognition that there is no correlation between greater wealth and ease of entry into that which can only be described as “eternal”. Though Mark doesn’t say it as directly as Matthew (6:19), wealth will only be eaten by moth and rust and stolen away, but this is what happens to the “first”. This is as amazing and fear producing as the resurrection will be as Jesus leads the terrified and fearful disciples to Galilee (16:8).

To carry within us this revolutionary announcement of good news, that will not feel like good news to those invested in power and privilege, and turn toward Jerusalem or Washington, D.C. or Wall Street (nexus of power and privilege) can only set us on edge—amazed that we are actually going there and fearful of actually going there. This is direct action beyond that found in relation to individuals or even crowds of individuals. Amazement and fear are constituent of this kind of action.

Note that μέλλω (mellō, about to happen) is not simply about something that might happen in some undesignated future, but contains a sense of compulsion, necessity, or certainty as in an expected consequence.

To go toward Jerusalem with an understanding that the first will be last is revolutionary business and neither the leaders of the Jerusalem Temple or the Roman State can abide this and continue in place.