Sermon for April 14, 2019: Fifth Sunday of Great Lent


Sermon for April 14, 2019
Fifth Sunday of Great Lent

Gospel Lesson -- (Mark 10:32-45)

The Gospel of Mark does not paint a very flattering picture of the Apostles of Jesus. They never seem to understand what’s going on with Jesus, what he’s talking about. They always seem to miss the point. They usually ask the wrong questions.

Three times in the Gospel of Mark (in chapters 8, 9, 10) Jesus foretells about his coming Passion. Each time he says what will happen to him, the apostles miss it. This time is no exception.

This time, the third time, we get the fullest prediction of what will happen. Let’s look at the text, “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.’”

What happens next is another example of missing the point. What do James and John ask? “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” The disciples have totally misunderstood what they are involved with, who they are following. They asked Jesus to become his political right and left hand men, thinking that Jesus was about go into Jerusalem and set up a new political reality for the people of Israel, overthrow the Romans and set up the new kingdom of Israel.

St John Chrysostom says, “They were expecting him to enter into the kingdom, not to the cross and death Even though they had heard it 10,000 times, they could not clearly understand.” He continues to say that they didn’t understand the crown that Jesus would wear in just a few days.

Christ was speaking on two levels. James and John assumed political power and kingdoms, while Jesus was talking about heavenly matters. Jesus never said that he would become a political ruler. But that’s the accusation that will ultimately be made against Him by others, that leads to His arrest, trial, crucifixion and death.

Why are we hearing this message now in our Lenten journey? Clearly the Church is relating what happened, giving us the timeline of events. We are being prepared for what is to come as well, what we will experience in Holy Week.

The passage is also giving a lesson about how to understand what will happen to Christ. We are not to be as out of touch as those first disciples. We are meant to understand that the kingdom that Christ promises is “not of this world” as we will hear in the story of his trial before Pilate.

The passage is also preparing us – as Christ prepared his followers – for his own death. It’s real. It’s what his ministry on earth was pointed towards. It is, as Fr Schmemann said, “the beginning of the Cross.” We are now being asked to contemplate the mystery of the Cross, the mystery of Christ’s death, so that “we can go up to Jerusalem,” so that we can participate in the Resurrection.

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