You Gotta Serve Somebody, Mark 10: 35-40

Sermon by Pastor Mark Siler, 10/21/18


This is my favorite Bob Dylan song. Join with me on the chorus: “You may be a State Trooper, you might be a young Turk. You may be the head of some big TV network. You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame, you may be living in another country under another name. CHORUS: But you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Yes, you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  Yet again, it is a young Jewish man from the edges of society who offers us a deep truth.  We all have to serve somebody.

I feel like I understand James and John. We have to remember that there was a brutal oppression taking place. They, and all of the disciples for that matter, were desperate for a leader, a Messiah, a King who would bring victory over Rome.  They wanted the power to make it all go away, to set things right.  Who among us is not tempted but such levers of power?  

I don’t think Jesus is telling James and John that they are playing the game wrong. I think he is telling them that they are playing the wrong game.  Jesus refuses to play by the rules of empire.  Jesus refuses to be controlled and bound by Rome’s understanding of power.  He is asking his disciples, he is asking us, what power are you going to serve? What power will you give your life to?  

It does not matter if we consider ourselves to be at the top or the bottom or somewhere in the middle.  Wherever we think we are, if our sense of power or powerlessness comes from an up or down position, then we are serving the wrong power. Jesus seems to be saying that real power is always power with, power shared, not power over.  This true power is revealed and enhanced when we truly serve each other, which includes a willingness to be served.  It appears when we recognize and relate to each other as kin, as siblings, as full members of the family of God. It is a power that is way more powerful than domination.  It is the power that can liberate us from the cycles of violence, disparity, oppression, injustice that continue to plague our world..

I see three practices, three postures of discipleship in our text and throughout Mark’s gospel that open us up this holy power. We repent. We take on the work, and help each other do the same, of freeing our minds, our bodies and our souls from this power over system, from participating in our world’s value ranking and its constant assaults on a God-given dignity. We resist. We work together to stand up to all attempts to own God’s creation, to hold it, withhold it and exploit it. We restore. We join God’s unrelenting efforts to restore what domination destroys. But here is the catch. We can’t use the same tools, weapons nor understanding of power that got us here. Those are only good for separating, hoarding and hurting.  We must rely on this humble, liberating and courageous love that comes from God and is fully embodied in Christ. It is a power that turns power over others on its side.  It ends the game that nobody can win and reveals the holy realm where all will prevail.

Ghandi called it Satyagraha or “soul force”. Martin Luther King Jr. called it “nonviolent resistance”.  Jesus unleashes it through the cross.  In the end, we do indeed have to serve some form of power. We have to serve somebody. Who is it going to be?