Jesus and Power

Jon Shematek Pentecost 1 Comment

Transcript of the Post:

Welcome back to If Necessary Use Words! This is a place for praying with images. I’m Jon Shematek, a Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

Every Monday, we’ll look at a portion of the Gospel assigned for the upcoming Sunday, and reflect together using a form of Visio Divina, in which we combine scriptural text, images and reflection. I hope this will engage you in thought, conversation or next Sunday’s sermon.

Today we explore the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10: 41-45, assigned for the Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost, Year B, which this year falls on October 21. We join the narrative just after James and John privately asked that Jesus, in his glory, grant them seats next to him, one on his right and the other on his left.

First Listen or Read Carefully: “When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (NRSV)

Now Look: at this image of a monument. This is a memorial to Queen Victoria of England and stands in front of Buckingham Palace. Look carefully at the complex features of this statuary. Imagine what the figures on our left represent. Then turn your attention to statue of the Queen, in profile seated on her throne, facing the City of London. What details do you notice about the monarch? What do you make of her persona, her facial expression, the message intended in this work of art?

[Your Personal Reflection]


Now Reflect: Jesus spoke to his followers about Gentile rulers. Throughout history, tribal leaders, rulers, emperors, kings, queens and presidents have been in that role. In Jesus’ day, such rulers were almost always tyrannically abusive of their power. In later times, including today, some, sadly perhaps few, rulers have become known for their compassion and for their promotion of justice, peace and equitable treatment of all people. More often, leaders are not seen in such a favorable light. No matter what the circumstances, or how good the individual is to the so-called “common people,” in reality there is almost always a chasm between persons who govern, and persons who are governed. Between royalty and subjects, between presidents and ordinary citizens.

So when James and John approached Jesus, imagining a future of power and glory for themselves, sitting next to the throne of Christ, the other disciples became angry. Was it because they desired these positions for themselves? Jesus set them straight in no uncertain terms, yet in terms they continued not to comprehend. Followers of the Jesus Movement are not called to a type of leadership that is tyrannical, “lording it” over others. But are called to a life of service to others, particularly those who are poor, sick, vulnerable and marginalized. The very people that many in power want to forget. Yet when we recall the words and acts of Jesus, we cannot forget them.

[Your Personal Reflection]


Now Act:

Do you ever find yourself projecting an attitude of superiority and privilege? Examine the circumstances of those occurrences, and find a way to change your behavior, becoming more like a servant. Today is a good day to consider how you can serve others. Help those in need.

In the United States, we are rapidly closing in on Election Day. This is your timely opportunity to exercise service by voting, and encouraging others to vote. In that process, consider which candidates are more likely to serve the forgotten persons. Candidates who are more likely to serve, than to be served. Follow your conscience, in these highly polarized and emotional times, as followers of the Jesus Movement.

[Your Personal Reflection]


This is Jon Shematek. Thanks so much for participating in If Necessary Use Words. A place for praying with images. Please leave a comment on this post with any personal insights, reflections, or concerns, so that others may benefit from your thoughts.

[Song: “Ambient Sonata” / Album: Ambient Sonata  / Artist: Dee Yan-Key]


[Image: “Victoria Memorial”, London, England  Photographer: Jon Shematek]


Comments 1

  1. This reflection is so timely and essential. We are called to Love (serve) God, neighbor and ourselves, to respect the dignity of people in power and people who are disenfranchised. We need one another to live as a community of love and respect– seeing each person as created to love and be loved. Electing officials who will empower others as well as themselves. May it be so.

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