At some point in our lives we have all probably had a nickname. When I was a camp counselor at Camp Massaneta outside of Harrisonburg, VA I got the nickname Will-Da-Beast. What do you have to do to get the nickname Will-Da-Beast? Some pretty crazy dance moves. And I liked that nickname. In seventh grade my science teacher gave me the nickname Wilber. And I hated that nickname. Please don’t call me Wilber.
We have all received nicknames in our lives. Maybe it is a name we liked. Maybe it is a nickname we disliked. But usually it is based on something about our character or a situation we were in that caused others to give us a nickname. Jesus, was also found of giving his disciples nicknames. Simon, the fisherman, brother to Andrew, he named Peter or Cephas. A name that roughly translates as rock or rocky. James and John, the brothers making spectacular request to Jesus in today’s passage, Jesus nicknamed Boanerges, meaning Sons of Thunder ( Mark 3:17). He only gave nicknames to Simon, James and John, suggesting that they were important to Jesus. We know that Jesus gave Simon the name Peter because he would be a foundational leader the rock of the early church. Peter also appears to be a little thick headed, so perhaps there was a double meaning to the nickname. We are not told much about James and John, besides the fact that along with Peter, Jesus takes them up the mountain to view his transfiguration. Perhaps he named them Sons of Thunder because he knew they would get to hear the thundering voice of God. Perhaps he named them sons of thunder because he saw them as powerful messengers of the Gospel. Perhaps he also named them sons of thunder because they had big mouths, and were rather full of themselves, as they demonstrate in today’s story. They wanted to know Jesus glory. And if Jesus could help them look good in the process that would be even better.
But Jesus says in the Kingdom of God our desire for greatness must be redirected. We must not be like the leaders of this world who use positions of power to say that they are better than those below them and to force those below them to do what they want. Instead, if we want to be great we must become a servant. One of the words for servant in this passage is where we get our modern word Deacon. The word basically means one who waits on others, particularly one who waits on tables. Thus it seems that waiting is a major theme of leadership for Jesus. While Jesus was not against taking action his actions came from a character of waiting.
The Good News Today is this. When we become Waiting Leaders we shall know the power of God. We become waiting leaders by.
- Waiting on God
- Waiting on Others
- Waiting on Ourselves.
First, we become Waiting Leaders by waiting on God. Jesus knew what it was to wait on the direction of his heavenly Father. As he said in John he did only what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19). We don’t know exactly how this worked for Jesus. Perhaps it was a combination of divine knowledge, intuition, and studying the scriptures. Yet, we know Jesus’ ultimate example on waiting on his Father was his statement in this passage, “the Son of Man came not to serve but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The phrase, “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite way of describing himself. Often, people think that Jesus was saying he was a human being by using this title for himself. Yet, that would be like me introducing myself as Will the Red head. Yes, I do have red hair, but I don’t need to point that out, it is an obvious trait of mine. Jesus doesn’t call himself Son of Man to point out that he is a human being. That is obvious. Instead, he is referring to a figure in the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 7 where the prophet Daniel has this vision,
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14). The nation of Israel was under the occupation of the Persian empire at the time. So Daniel was basically saying that the Son of Man was the one, appointed by the God to overthrow Israel’s enemies. So by calling himself the Son of Man Jesus was saying he was going to overthrow the enemies of God. So it was easy to understand how James and John thought that this would involve a glorious military conflict where they would get to come out on top. But instead Jesus says they would have to wait. They would have to wait for the Son of Man to become a ransom for many. The enemies that were to be overcome were death, sin, and the devil. The weapon to overcome this trinity of evil was the suffering of the cross. Suffering is the cup that Jesus must drink and the baptism which he must be baptized. James and John didn’t understand this at the time. But they would.
Jesus had all the rights to the power of God, yet he chose to live as a human being. He did not seek to defend himself but instead waited for God to vindicate him. Even on the cross, when all his friends had abandoned him, and all the world mocked him, Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? Which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34). Many have interpreted this cry from the cross as a sign that Jesus was in despair, that he believed his father had forsaken him, that he was giving up. In fact, it was Jesus saying before a skeptical world that he had faith in his Father to deliver him. Jesus was quoting the first lines of Psalm 22. It would be much like us quoting the line of a popular song and expecting others to know the rest of the song. The problem is many of us don’t bother to look up Psalm 22 to see how it ends. Here is how that psalm ends, “ All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.” (Psalm 22:27-31). And Jesus was correct. God raised him from the dead and his glory has been proclaimed from generation to generation to this very day. All because he waited on God to vindicate him and did not try to defend himself.
The word for patience in the Bible can be more literally translated as long suffering. Literally the Bible says that we should remain under suffering. And while I do not think the Bible teaches us to be push overs or to be targets for abuse, I do think the Bible calls us as Christians to suffer differently than the rest of the world. To quote the words of 1 Peter, “ Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord, as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:14-17). Where is the Lord calling us today to wait patiently under our suffering so the world may know the hope that we profess? Where is the Lord calling us to wait for him to give him control of the situation and wait for him to vindicate us? Let us wait on the Lord for him to show us these things.
Second, we see how Jesus’ ministry was about waiting on others.As we talked about earlier the word for servant in this passage means to wait on tables.
In our society I think the Waiters and Waitresses demonstrate the lifestyle that Jesus calls us to have as Waiting Leaders. Anyone who has worked as a waiter or waitress knows that it isn’t considered to be a particularly desirable job. You can go unseen and unappreciated by those you serve, you can fall victim to workplace harassment, and living on tips makes it hard to plan for your future. One waitress named Katie, recounts the positives and negatives of being a waitress in a 2011 Atlantic article, “There is an ego-swallowing required of great waiters and waitresses, akin to any service job. This task is not particularly comfortable for bright young things from the provinces desperate to believe they have a place in an enormous city. Chefs, by the time they earn their whites, are considered artists. But lifelong servers are always second-class. They are told to use the bathroom in the kitchen, obey managers, stay off their cell phones, enter through the side door, and be quiet, attentive, and busy at all times.
Strangely, despite the potential for lowered self-esteem, rude customers, and insane managers, I take pleasure in the job. I like eating delicious food and I enjoy assisting other people in this pursuit. Unlike offices, which force me to sit down and keep to myself, service is an ongoing chapter from Harriet the Spy. I have season tickets to first dates, breakups, and wedding engagements and I have become great friends with TV writers, professional body builders, and heirs to steakhouse fortunes .” .
Certainly, there are many problems in waiting on others. People do not treat us as well as they should and that is not right. But we might also have a problem with our perspective. We might think we are too good to be waiting on others. That we are destined for something more than waiting on others. When Jesus said that waiting on others is the pinnacle of leadership in the Kingdom of God. And I am reminded of Psalm 131, “O LORD my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things to great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel hope in the LORD, from this time forth and forevermore.” So let us be like weaned children moving on from spiritual milk to solid food. Let us embrace the solid food of waiting on others.
Finally, I think waiting leaders must wait on themselves. Jesus spent the majority of his life in the occupation of his earthly father, that is he was a carpenter. He didn’t do anything particularly spectacular or amazing and he was fine with that. He waited to the appointed time. We waited till God thought he was ready to begin his mission. While Jesus was known for fasting for forty days in the wilderness, he was also known for dinning with tax collectors and sinners. Perhaps his humble estate, working with wood, getting splinters in his hands, taught him how to deal with those with splinters in their souls in a gentle and humble way. He used setbacks as opportunities to teach his disciples not to discourage them. Even Peter, who denied him three times, he made a plan to restore as a leader in the church. Often, in following Jesus, we can become discouraged by our lack of progress. But the word disciple simply means learner. So as long as we are learning from Jesus we are never failures even though we may fail.
When we live in darkness often we are not fully aware of how far we fall short. But when the light of Christ shines in our lives we become acutely aware of our failings, we see Christ’s glory and how far we have to go, and we might be tempted to despair. And while there are times where must face hard realities about ourselves, I don’t think Jesus is the type of savior who wants us to beat ourselves up all the time. Instead, he wants us to calm and quiet our souls. We must accept where we are and ask the Lord to grow us to into who we will become. In an impatient and busy world there is much to be gained in waiting. So let us wait on the Lord. As Psalm 130 declares, “ Out of the depths. I cry to you, O LORD! O lord , hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!. If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning, more than the watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” O LORD, the leaders of this world Lord it over each other and it hasn’t made things any better. We confess that we don’t know how to solve the problems in our lives or the problems of the world. All we know is we must wait. So we wait for ourselves, we wait on others, and we wait for you oh Lord, that in our waiting we may become, waiting leaders.