Reflections: St. James the Elder, Apostle

Today’s Reading: Mark 10:35-45

Daily Lectionary: 1 Samuel 9:1-27; Acts 21:37-22:16

“But to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” (Mark 10:37)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. James and John didn’t know what they were asking. They imagined that Jesus, the Messiah, would come into His kingdom in a big, grand, and glorious way, and they wanted in on the action—power, glory, and popularity before men. We crave these things as well, wanting to be liked and glorified by our peers, measuring others’ approval by the number of likes on our latest social media post or latching on to the popular people at work or school, hoping to share in their glory.

But Jesus is not the way to earthly glory. Instead, those who trust in Jesus are more likely to be hated by the world. All of Jesus’ disciples would drink the cup of suffering and be baptized in their own blood at the hands of their persecutors. James, who is remembered today, was the first apostle martyred for the faith, beheaded by King Herod—grandson of the Herod who attempted to murder Jesus in His infancy (Matthew 14:1–12 and Mark 6:14–29).

Jesus’ glory is completely different. His glory is His mercy and grace for undeserving sinners like James and John—and you. His glory was to drink the cup of God’  anger that sinners deserved and to be baptized in blood as God’ s fiery wrath toward sinners was poured upon Him on the Cross. As King Jesus hung upon His royal throne, others were present at His right and His left. Strangely, two robbers received this honor (Mark 15:27). For “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

The glorious ones in Christ’  kingdom are not the wealthy or famous or popular. The glorious ones in Christ’  kingdom are the ones for whom He died: Sinners, robbers, those without a shred of personal worthiness or goodness, who deserve no glory, but are glorified by Jesus’ forgiveness, who are baptized in His Name and who drink the eucharistic cup of His Blood. Those two robbers stand for you. You are the glorious ones, made glorious by Jesus’ redemption. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O Lord, for James, we praise You, Who fell to Herod’s sword; He drank the cup of suff’ring and thus fulfilled your word. Lord, curb our vain impatience For glory and for fame, Equip us for such suff’rings As glorify your name. (“By All Your Saints in Warfare” LSB 518, st.21)

-Rev. Jeffrey Ware is pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC.

Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch

Christians need to aspire to being people of THE faith. Not just any will do. In Faith Misused, Dr. Alvin Schmidt shares his case for a Christian reclaiming of the word “faith” from its ambiguous modern uses. Now available from Concordia Publishing House.