Easter Without Hindsight: A New Eye on Easter
The difficulty that his disciples were still having with his counter-cultural message was clear to Jeshua as he approached Jerusalem. Just days from his final confrontation with the governing powers of politics and religion John and James, two of the first disciples that he ever called, asked him if they could sit to his left and right (Mark 10:32-45) “when you are there in all your glory.”
The brothers had often heard Jeshua’s warnings that he will suffer, die and rise again but they clearly think that he’s being metaphorical. In fairness to them, everyone, including the Jews, knows that no power on earth can raise the dead. Jews like John and James believed that resurrection will happen at the end of this world. Coming back to life in this world would be inconceivable to them, as it is to the rest of humanity.
They saw that at the end of this journey Jeshua will reign as a king in Jerusalem: the descendant of King David, rightfully back on David’s throne. Just how persistent this vision remains is also demonstrated in the book of Acts (1:6) when some disciples even ask Jeshua, at that point having risen from the dead: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
John and James realised that there will be suffering involved as messiah overcomes the powers that stand in his way. When he sits on his throne in Jerusalem, though, could they sit either side of him? Prime Ministers in his government, perhaps?
“Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” Jeshua asks James and John in reply. “Can you receive the baptism I am going to receive?”
He is, first, referring to the cup of wrath spoken about by the prophet Jeremiah. In Jeremiah’s day God’s wrath at Israel’s wickedness descended on Jerusalem in the form of conquering armies. Jeshua sees his task as taking God’s wrath at the wickedness of the whole world, and Israel’s in particular, onto his own head. Then he reminds them of the start of his own journey, his baptism by John the Baptist. Now, instead of going down into water, he will go through death itself, so that forgiveness can be released for the whole world.
Jeshua’s death on a Roman cross was neither metaphorical, nor a ‘tough’ challenge that leads to a successful outcome. Jeshua’s crucifixion turns humanity’s normal measures of success and authority upside down. In the pagan nations the high and mighty lord it over others but that’s not how it will be with you, Jeshua teaches them. The greatest among them, he tells his disciples, must become servants of all: “for the son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” His reference to Isaiah’s “suffering servant” (Isaiah 53) made it clear to his disciples where Jeshua believed this journey was going to finish.
Little wonder then, that those who understood him were afraid (v32) as he led this particular pilgrimage from Galilee to Jerusalem.