Can you be baptised with my baptism?: A sermon

Mark 10.35-45
Palm Sunday 29th March 2015
Belle Vue Baptist

 

Can you drink the cup I drink

or be baptized with baptism I am baptized with?

A question appropriate at the beginning of holy week

where we will remember Jesus in the upper room, in the garden,

in the courtroom, on the cross and then in the tomb.

Can you drink the cup I drink

or be baptized with baptism I am baptized with?

Throughout Lent we have been faced with the challenge of following Jesus

and none more so when he asks us this question.

 

What makes a mature Christian?

Sometimes we like to talk about so and so being a mature Christian

and often this can mean they’ve been following Jesus a long time.

Well in Mark’s gospel that doesn’t mean much.

James and John have been following Jesus from near day one.

Three years in the company of Jesus.

Three years of hearing Jesus teach and watching him work.

We might think they are ready for graduation,

they must be reaching the advance levels of the stages of faith,

they are surely ready to be called ‘mature’?

James and John approach Jesus,

they want to speak to him,

a moment to demonstrate their understanding,

their maturity as his disciples.

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

Ok, not a good start, a bit presumptive,

but there’s still time to show themselves as exemplar disciples.

“Let one of us sit at your right and other at your left in glory.”

If this was twitter the response might be #discipleshipfail

You can imagine Jesus’ face marked with disappointment as he says,

“You don’t know what you’re asking.”

 

Beware of mature disciples!

They’re probably just as deaf and blind as the rest of us.

Back in chapter 8, Jesus spoke about the ‘Son of Man coming in glory’,

but James and John demonstrate selective hearing,

as they seem to have not heard that the glory of the Son of Man

was framed by suffering, cross and death.

Two people do find themselves on Jesus’ left and his right,

they are the two robbers he is crucified with (Mk 15.27).

The moment of Jesus’ glory, his triumph,

his being named king,

is the moment of his crucifixion.

Jesus asks James and John:

Can you drink the cup I drink

or be baptized with baptism I am baptized with?

Jesus asks us:

Can you drink the cup I drink

or be baptized with baptism I am baptized with?

 

We hear the words cup and baptism in several ways.

We hear them as words from the beginning and end of Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus begin his ministry with baptism, it will near its completion when he shares the cup at the last supper.

Jesus is one who embraces baptism and the shares the cup.

Baptism marks the acceptance of his mission from God.

The cup he shares with his disciples and then he cup he asks to be removed from him in the garden at Gethsemane, mark the climax of his mission.

To understand Jesus, is to understand him through his baptism:

“You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”

and to understand him through his cup:

He took the cup … “This is the blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many.”

Jesus is the anointed Son of God,

and as such his blood will be shed for many.

Can you drink the cup I drink

or be baptized with baptism I am baptized with?

 

We hear these words – baptism and cup – as sacraments of the church,

the call to be baptised and to gather round the Lord’s table.

We are those baptised into Christ: as the apostle Paul puts it:

“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?” (Rom 5.3).

We are those who share the cup of Christ: as the apostle Paul puts it:

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ” (1 Cor. 10.16).

If baptism and the cup mark the life of Jesus, they also mark our lives,

his baptism is our baptism,

his cup is our cup,

his mission is our mission,

his cross is our cross: as the apostle Paul puts it:

“I have been crucified with Christ” (Gal 2.20).

Can you drink the cup I drink

or be baptized with baptism I am baptized with?

asks Jesus.

Our baptism says yes, and every time we come to this table and drink from the cup, we say yes Jesus.

 

Baptism and the cup are visual reminders

that the one we worship, the one we follow,

is the one who dies on a cross.

The way to glory, the way to life,

is the way of the cross.

James and John want glory, reward and hallelujah,

Jesus promises that if they will follow him,

they shall share with him in his sufferings and challenges.

How often have you passed a church with some kind of amusing, appealing,

warm, friendly poster that says something like ‘Jesus will meet your needs.’

How often have you passed a church with a sign that says ‘Come! Be crucified! We’ve got a cross that fits your back too!’*

The gospel is not just Jesus died for me and you,

the gospel is also Jesus calls us to die with him.

 

Earlier this week the Church celebrated Oscar Romero,

who 25 years ago, as the then Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down as he celebrated mass.

Pope Francis has declared him a martyr of the Christian faith.

Romero was one who knew the way of the cross.

In a few weeks time it will be the 70th anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonheoffer, a Christian pastor who stood against the evils of Nazism,

and was executed.

Bonheoffer was one who knew the way of the cross.

Likewise in a few weeks time it will be the anniversary of the death of the Baptist pastor Martin Luther King,

who led the civil rights movement in the United States and was assassinated.

Luther King was one who knew the way of the cross.

The history of the church is full of other examples.

I name them not because martyrdom is somehow necessary to being a Christian,**

as if you’re only a Christian if you’re killed for your faith,

but to say that as those who are baptised and those who share the cup of Jesus,

we are saying that martyrdom is now a possibility.

We do not seek death, martyrdom is not a kind of evangelistic strategy,

but the message of Jesus is one that produces hostility,

for to follow Jesus is to live in such a way that proclaims the crucified and risen Jesus as Lord.

What does this look like? It looks like this:

            whoever would come after me, must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me

            whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it

            whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant;

            whoever wants to be first must be slave of all

We might ask that in the Western world, the lack of persecution towards Christians, the lack of martyrs, is because

            ‘the church has often given the world too little to reject, too little witness,

too few challenges, too small a God and a harmless Jesus?’***

 

Too briefly return to my comments earlier about mature Christians,

what perhaps is important is not the amount of years that you have attended church,

although that hopefully does help,

but what really matters is are you still allowing yourself to hear and see Jesus?

Are you allowing the gospel to bring you to your knees,

and lift you to your feet?

Are you following Jesus in the way that confronts the evils of the world,

with a love that leads to the cross?

 

Can you drink the cup I drink

or be baptized with baptism I am baptized with?

As we come to share in the Lord’s Supper,

we are saying yes we want to Jesus.

 

 * William Willimon

** I owe these thoughts in this section to Stanley Hauerwas (Approaching the End, Eerdmans, 2013) and Craig Hovey (To Share in the Body (Brazos, 2008).

*** Craig Hovey, To Share in the Body, p.39.


Praying with Mark's Gospel in Lent

We pray for those like John the Baptist, a voice crying out,
grant them the gift of truthful speech

We pray for those like Andrew who responded to your call to follow
grant them the gift of perseverance

We pray for those who listen to your teaching
grant them the gift of learning
  
We pray for those like Simon’s mother in law, who respond to your grace with service
grant them the gift of joy in serving

We pray for those like the man with leprosy, who are made outcasts,
grant them the gift of being accepted

We pray for those like the paralysed man, who are forgiven
grant them the gift of thankfulness

We pray for those like Levi who are loved by you, and hated by others,
grant them the gift of loving
 
We pray for those like the Pharisees, who only see in black and white
grant them the gift of grace
           
We pray for those like Jesus’ family who feel helpless
grant them the gift of trust to let go
 
We pray for those like the crowd who listened to your parables
 grant them the gift of sight to find your kingdom
                       
We pray for those like the disciples in the storm,
grant them the gift of trust in your love and care
 
We pray for those like Legion struggling with mental health
grant them the gift of peace of mind
 
We pray for those like the woman who had been bleeding for 12 yrs,
grant them the gift of healing
 
We pray for those like Jarius’ daughter, young and dying,
grant them the gift of life in the shadow of death
 
We pray for those like the residents of Nazareth who didn’t believe,
grant them the gift of faith to see and believe
 
We pray for those like Herod who murder those who challenge them,
 grant them the gift of ears to hear the truth
 
We pray for those like the 5,000 who were fed on the hillside,
grant them the gift of daily bread
 
We pray for those like the Syro-Phoenician woman, a foreigner,
grant them the gift of being welcomed
 
We pray for those like Peter, who want a saviour who doesn’t suffer,
 grant them the gift of understanding
           
We pray for those who have experienced the presence of God,
grant them the gift to see it as a gift of your grace

We pray for those who caught between belief and unbelief,
grant them the gift of faith to believe
 
We pray for those like the children Jesus blessed,
grant them the gift of joy and laughter
 
We pray for those like the rich young man,
grant them the gift of letting go of treasures
 
We pray for those like James and John, who want the glory without pain,
grant them the gift of living the way of your kingdom

We pray for those like Bartimaeus, who struggle to get a hearing,
grant them the gift of those who will listen
 
We pray for those like the witnesses to your entry into Jerusalem,
grant them the gift of praise
 
We pray for those like the templer seller,
grant them the gift of fairness in their dealings

We pray for those whose loyalties are divided,
grant them the gift of giving to God what belongs to God

We pray for those who read the bible as a rule book,
grant them the gift of seeing more light and truth in the word

We pray for those who have the right answers,
grant them the gift of joining their thinking with their living

We pray for those like the women who anointed Jesus,
grant them the gift of courage to risk the scorn of others

We pray for those who live in fear of persecution,
grant them the gift of your body and blood,
the promise of your presence 

We pray for those like Judas who betrayed a friend,
grant them the gift of repentance

We pray for those like the high priest whose god is too small
grant them the gift to see beyond their theology

We pray for those like Peter, who lack courage at the time of testing,
grant them the gift of forgiveness

We pray for those in power like Pilate,
grant them the gift of mercy

We pray for those like Simon, forced to work against their conscience,
grant them the gift to do good

We pray for those like the centurion who carry out the orders of the state,
grant them the gift to see a different kind of power

We pray for those like Joseph, who sit upon the fence,
grant them the gift to know and do what is right


Mark 10|46-52

Lawrence's weekly posts on the lectionary readings are fantastic, especially his reflections on the readings from Mark. This week's is no exception - read it here - I have found it very helpful as I prepare to read this passage with Bunyan's young people tomorrow. Here's a flavour:

The steep ascent from the Galilee to Jerusalem – the occasion for Jesus teaching his disciples about the Way of the Cross – mirrors the climb up Golgotha to crucifixion and death. These stopping places are the stations of the cross: time to pause and enter into the enormity of what is happening. It is the road of discipleship – the place of following. The further they travel it, the more the discipleship narrative unravels. The closer they draw to Jerusalem, the stiffer the resistance of The Twelve to the Way of the Cross becomes. And here, in the last stopping place before Jerusalem, the nature of true discipleship is shown, not through Jesus’ teaching, but through an encounter with a man who has become blind.