Isaiah 53:10-11 Hebrews 4:14-16 Mark 10:35-45
Earlier this week, when I was thinking through God’s message to us in today’s Scriptures, the soaring rhetoric of almost sixty years ago echoed in my mind: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” As memorable as those words have been, especially to us who recall first hearing them, to me they also embrace the sentiment which we have heard today.
Putting together his summary of the Gospel message, Saint Mark has offered us a number of considerations to ponder. What we heard today is a clear description of what a committed disciple, a dedicated follower of Jesus, is to understand about the values he has taught us to live out in our lives.
Before that, however, we heard a brief passage from the prophet Isaiah. Perhaps the words were a bit shocking. Infirmity, affliction, suffering were seen as the acceptable lot of God’s Servant. It is not a pleasant thought. It almost seems as if God seeks to impose pain on us. That is not the case, however. What this message of the prophet indicates is that it is through pain and suffering that a greater good will be accomplished: the greater good of restoration and justification. Through suffering a genuine reconciliation between God and mankind will be achieved.
This is precisely what the mission of Jesus Christ sought to accomplish for us. God coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ and offering himself, giving himself totally, won atonement for us. As the High Priest in the Old Covenant offered sacrifice to atone for sins, so now, in a greater sense, Christ, the new High Priest, gives of himself for the greater good of all mankind and then defeats death through his Resurrection. This is done so that we might live in a reconciled union with God and with one another.
If we want to understand and appreciate what Jesus calls us to do in life, we must realize that we are to guide and lead one another by service to one another. It is in service to one another that we recognize the goodness that we possess. It is in service to one another that we begin to experience in ourselves and in others the meaning of the love of God and the love of neighbor. It is in service to one another that we overcome what is most destructive and detrimental in human relationships and in life – self-centeredness and selfishness.
A basic lesson that we learn from the Scriptures is that God’s on-going and unending effort is to reach out in love for us This is epitomized in the person of Jesus Christ and in his giving of himself for mankind and thus being the servant of all humanity. This is what we are to reflect by a commitment to service to others. Rephrasing the words of almost six decades ago, we can understand Jesus calling on us to ask ourselves: what can others gain from me, not what can I gain from others. How might we be of service to others, not how can others be of service to me.
Even if nothing else, what others ought to be able to gain from each of us through our service to them is an acquaintance with and an awareness of a lived faith and a genuine trust in a truly good and gracious God.