Reflection on Matthew 20.17-28 (Lent)

Jesus said: You will indeed drink my cup …

As we journey through the season of Lent we are presented with a series of challenges. We are challenged to be self-sacrificial in the way we fast and live in a spirit of generous love for all. We are challenged to set aside our desire to be respected and honoured by those amongst whom we live out our daily lives. We are challenged to examine the sincerity of our faith. We are challenged to prepare ourselves for the reality of Christ’s ignominious death on a cross.

Today we read of Jesus going up to Jerusalem for the last time. He is in the company of his disciples, and he is aware of what lies ahead of him. At this moment in the gospel narrative Jesus, in plain words, tells those closest to him that they will soon see him condemned, mocked, flogged and crucified. He also tells them that on the third day he will be raised. In so few words Jesus revealed the endgame of his earthly mission. Jesus came for this … to offer himself for the salvation of humanity. However, despite this moment of great revelation, our reading takes us straight back into the world of ambition and pride.

In a few weeks’ time we will join the crowds as they move from hailing the triumphant arrival of Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem to the ravening mob who bay for his execution. As our Lenten journey draws to a close for another year we may well shed a tear at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Then we will join in the celebrations of our Lenten fasts coming to an end as the new Easter candles are lit and Christ’s resurrection is proclaimed. But, then what?

In recent days I have been asking people: ‘How will your Lenten fast bring you into a closer relationship with God?’ Today I am asking that question again. What difference will your journey through Lent make to the way in which you live your life when the Easter celebrations are over? Will the devouring of Easter Eggs mark a return to life as normal, or will you pause to reflect and then go forward in the new life won for us by Christ?

Today we hear Jesus’ monumental declaration of what lies ahead followed by the naked ambition of the mother of two of the disciples. This is followed by a moment of anger between the disciples. It is as though Jesus had said nothing of any consequence, normal life continued! The challenge for us is to decide between hearing Jesus’ words and letting them make a difference or just carrying on as normal, living the very human life of ambition, pride and anger.

Let us pray that our tears on Good Friday might be followed by an intense joy that inspires us to proclaim the Good News with renewed vigour and joy. Let us pray that the pain of the journey we are on might give way, not to relief, but renewed strength and courage. Let us pray that we might be filled with the Holy Spirit as we serve as Jesus served.