26 July 2010

Matthew 20:20-28

"'Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?' They said to him, 'We are able.'" (v.22)


Nowhere more so than in this passage does Jesus lay it on the line that the word of God is a verb, not a noun. It is not a word to be heard, end of story; it is something to be done, a life to be lived.

To our ears, the mother of James and John sounds like a pushy mum who believes her children are rising stars - though the response of the other disciples suggests that they think the Zebedee brothers also have some brass neck. The fact is, no-one really understands what is being asked here.

For the reader however, the Gospel writer Matthew reveals the demands that God's kingdom will bring by placing this incident directly after Jesus' most detailed prediction of what is to happen to him in Jerusalem (verses 17 to 19). If Jesus is about to be crucified, do his followers really believe that they are going to get off scot free? Enacting the word of God (ie making God's kingdom vision a reality) involves becoming a 'servant' to others - a word, which in the original Greek describes a menial table server. In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes the same point by washing his disciples' feet before their last meal together (John 13:1-20).

Jesus develops the idea of servanthood further by saying that a servant's job is "to give his life a ransom for many" - literally, to purchase the freedom of other slaves, God's people.

All this should give pause to anyone who remembers the life of Jesus by drinking from a communion cup during the service of Holy Communion. "Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" Jesus demands. When you hear the word of God, will you walk the walk as well as talk the talk?

To Ponder

Can you identify one way in which you are a servant to others? Does that feel oppressive to you or is it a liberating expression of your faith?

How would you explain Jesus' words to someone who was a survivor of abuse or bullying?

Bible notes author

Laurence Wareing

Laurence Wareing is a Methodist local preacher and works as a freelance writer and media producer. He was editor of the Methodist publication Momentum from 2005 until 2010 and currently edits the website Singing the Faith Plus.