The Fifth Sunday in Lent (3/21/2021)

Ps. 119:9-16 (v. 10); Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 5:1-10; Mk. 10:32-45.

Suffered, [E]very high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins… Although [Jesus] was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…” (vv. 1, 8, 9).

Unlike Aaron, Jesus holds a unique priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, Jerusalem’s king-priest in Abraham’s day. However, Aaron and Jesus hold in common a vocation to act on behalf of men… toward God for sins.

A priest’s calling requires empathy for the plight of sinful men; for the OT priesthood this meant dealing gently with the ignorant and wayward, because like them, the Aaronic priests were sinners required to offer sacrifices for their own.

Jesus, however is sinless eternal Son of God, affirmed by the Father at his Baptism (Mk. 1:11). Though a Son, Jesus was yet un-sacrificed “Lamb” and elevated “King”.

With anointing in the HS, Jesus was on Way to Jerusalem and cross where his self-offering to God would atone for sin and become God’s new eternal Temple. The cross instantiated both Jesus’ kingship in new Israel; and concluded his ordination rite as God’s High Priest (“It is finished”, Jn. 19:30).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus exhibits some empathy toward self-aggrandizing and grasping Apostles James and John. Unlike Peter, who on the first occasion of Jesus’ death and resurrection prophesy sought to deter Jesus from the cross (Mk. 8:33); in Jesus’ third prophesy James and John have heard the resurrection (Mk. 10:34c) presuming it a “glory” of retribution and judgment.

Zebedee’s sons ask Jesus, that when he comes into his “glory”, one of them be Secretary of State, the other Secretary of War (cf. Lk. 9:54). Jesus does not chastise for their worldly outlook and lack of kingdom understanding, as Peter.

After all Jesus, is God’s Warrior (Dan. 10:12-14) and they are on-march to Palm Sunday’s triumphal entrance into the City of David, re-taking it from the “brood of [religious] vipers” (Mt. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33).

Despite James’ and John’s lack of understanding, Jesus was tolerant; inquiring if they knew the nature and cost of his Father’s work, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mk. 10:38). As irony would have, in the Resurrection the Apostles would be received into Jesus’ baptism of the HS (v. 39; Jn. 20:22); so also, the church of Pentecost Day.

When a king’s son was anointed his father’s successor there was regency period for the son’s training in the ways of his father’s rule and reign. From the time of Jesus’ birth, he was being trained in the rigors of Lordship, worthy Servant King and High Priest; experiencing mankind’s suffering under the thrall of sin and death.

God was shaping Jesus (as he shapes all Baptized), his warrior Son for victory, and that he learn to speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned…” (Isa. 40:2).

Jesus’ entire earthly experience, from humble birth to ignominious death, was programmatic of martial training in the way of the cross; suffering on behalf of and on account of men.

Jesus’ suffering began in infancy; Herod attempted to assassinate the Child; instead Bethlehem’s Holy Innocents were blooded on Jesus’ account. As a youth, Jesus absorbed Scripture’s light of salvation history, the wages of his brothers’ and sisters’ sin.

From Jesus’ anointing, “Lamb of God”, his desert testing, march to Jerusalem, he suffered, demonic attack, blasphemous abuse, attempts on his life, rejection and unbelief by those overseeing synagogue and temple; there were those who fell away on account of his teaching (Jn. 6:66); in Gethsemane he suffered soul-separating fear at impending death; and finally, betrayal by Judas and Peter, abandonment by all.

Jesus “although a Son… learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8) so that at his “hour” he could receive a king’s crown and a priestly headdress for the sake of fragile men under the chaos of sin and fear. For our sake Jesus offered himself “once for all”, all sufficient atoning Sacrifice; “In this manner God loved the world” (Jn. 3:16).

In fidelity to the Father, Jesus crucified and risen, ascended to the Father, offering his atoning blood in perfection to receive, as Son of Man, enthronement beside the Father; eternal High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, whose voice continually engages the Father’s ear.

What does it mean that Jesus, “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9)? As with James and John, you too are baptized into Jesus’ Baptism, receiving the HS in blood-water and Word for a new purification. In the Supper of his broken body and shed blood you partake the Cup of wrath Jesus suffered to the fill for you.

Baptized into Christ, you may expect, not a “glory” of retribution thought by James and John, a journey of worldly glory: power, ease, an absence of pain and struggle; rather true glory suffers in the Kingdom’s discipline that overcomes sin and those despising our faith as shame.

Jesus fully consumed the Cup of God’s wrath. His Baptism was concluded in handing-over the HS from the cross to assure your Resurrection blessings; empowering you to follow your Lord and intercessory High Priest; to engage suffering on account of sin and those hating your obedience to Christ.

It is your heavenly Father’s will that you advance in sonship and daughterhood to reign in Christ. His Kingdom comes in your priestly obedience that listens to Christ, God’s true Torah; trusting Him for all things who offers-up prayers and supplications on our behalf. Such is faith’s obedience.

James was the church’s first Apostle martyr, John perhaps last. At the time of our Gospel, these brothers did not comprehend Kingdom greatness; not possible until the Resurrection.

But Christ’s teaching and God’s training into his priest-servant office, we daily search the love of God in Christ who entered death’s abyss, a ransom for many for a new purification through the order of Melchizedek. Amen.