Readings: Jeremiah 18:18-20; Psalm 30; Matthew 20:17-28
I find today’s gospel quite funny, it has the air of a black comedy about it, mainly due to the misunderstandings of the disciples. In today’s Gospel Jesus is journeying to Jerusalem with his disciples. On the way he breaks the news of his impending death. He tells them that when they reach the city he, Jesus, will be handed over to the temple officials and the Romans to be killed. He also tells them that he will rise again on the third day.
How do the disciples react? Do they get upset? Do they try to get Jesus to turn away from Jerusalem? No, they do none of these things, but rather begin to argue over stupid things. The mother of Zebedee’s sons approaches Jesus to try and get places of honour for them in the kingdom of Jesus, completely misunderstanding what he meant by kingdom. Jesus tries to inform her that to gain places of honour in his kingdom is to take up the cross and suffer as Jesus himself soon will, and that it is his Father who will give out places there.
You would think that this would have been the end of the discussion. But no, the other ten disciples obviously have the words “places of honour” stuck in their heads, and they begin to get annoyed, one suspects because they didn’t get their request in first! Again Jesus tries to give a lesson on what a Christian leader ought to be like, one that follows his example, to serve those over whom they have authority. This is a reversal of what we think someone in a position of authority ought to be like. Yet that is what we are called to be.
So Jesus has told his disciples he is going to die horribly, they fight among themselves for positions of honour, then Jesus has to give them a lesson in Christian leadership! Their reaction to his news is not what one would expect. That is what sin, in the form of ambition in this case, does. It prevents us from hearing clearly the word of God, which means that we cannot follow it. But by being the type of people that Jesus instructs his disciples to be we will hear his word, and be able to follow it.