President of the Council of the Evangelical Church of Germany
The grace and peace of God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all. Amen
“Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them,
You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them.
But it is not this way 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 even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
I would like to shed light on three points found in this Gospel text and let them be fruitful for us.
Let us listen again to the realistic view of the world of God’s Son:
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you.”
Jesus remarks very soberly on how things usually are in our world:
Oppression and exploitation have become the ordinary destiny of ordinary people.
Authority is used to secure one’s own position.
Positions of authority are usually close to the fleshpots. And the small circle of elites look after one another in order to keep their position and even better it.
It used to be like this at that time. And up to today, you can see this in many cases in this world.
But this form of authority, of oppression and exploitation of people, does not characterize the Christian community.
Jesus does not moralize and does give us a bad conscience.
He simply remarks: But it is not this way among you.
Jesus changes men and women by giving them confidence.
Jesus does not demand, but he assures them:
“You are a community defined by God’s love and affection for you, and by your love and affection for one another.”
Confident of this word of Jesus and of His assurance, we can say:
It is possible for a person to behave in a new way and to have new relationships among us.
And this possibility becomes a reality when we let the example of Jesus and the spirit of God inspire and guide us.
To our current way of thinking and our current belief, the “word from the cross” remains always a “scandal.”
We would be only too happy if, from time to time, we could eliminate the suffering and death of Jesus from our theology, as well as the daily suffering and death from of our lives.
But the suffering and death of Jesus Christ and the suffering and death of people in this world are an indispensable part of our faith.
Christian faith is and wants much more than “wellness of the soul.”
In fact, the Gospel does not promise us an everlasting “lightness of being” on this earth.
That is precisely why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is “good news,” because it assures us of God’s presence and nearness also in dark days and in our experiences of death.
For Jesus the way to God’s glory was a way of suffering.
This way did not push aside suffering and death.
Jesus consciously took suffering and death upon himself.
This held for His followers at that time, and it still holds for us today:
There is no Easter without Good Friday!
The path to resurrection passes through death.
The life, suffering, death, and resurrection of God’s Son serve the redemption of men and women!
Although He is God’s Son, the Lord of all lords, Jesus renounces all royal status.
Jesus knows that God, His Father, has sent Him and destined Him to serve.
“He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave,” says the Philippian Hymn.
“Service” is the decisive word to characterize the life and passion of Jesus, specifically as a service on behalf of the redemption and liberation of all men and women.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” These are the words in the text of Mark with which Jesus explains His life and passion.
Jesus does not overcome evil with evil.
Jesus overcomes the absolute power of the violence of death by His death on the cross.
By raising Jesus from the dead, God reveals:
serving, and not dominating, is God’s way of salvation for the world and for all people.
The way of Jesus, the way of love and meekness, the way of peace and mercy, is the way of life—also for us.
This way leads to eternal life!
Living this way, we can celebrate life in spite of, and in the midst of, all our experiences of death, in our individual lives and in the larger world.
Because in Jesus Christ God has made clear to us, once and for all, that death was not the last word about Jesus’ life—and that death will not be the last word about our lives, if we bind our lives to the resurrected Christ.
With His service Jesus Christ “paid the ransom” that has released us from all our futile attempts to release ourselves:
from the repression of death and the illusion of immortality,
from the inner compulsion of self-exaltation,
and from self-affirmation without regard for others.
We do not have to dominate others, oppress and exploit them, to experience our lives as “rich” and “successful.”
We are redeemed and liberated from the egocentric striving for the places of honor, from exterior success, and from the battle for recognition and self-justification, which destroys all relationships.
In the face of failures and culpable mistakes we should not sink into resignation, passively watching what is going on in the world.
We can meet the darkness in our own lives and the powers of death in this world with open eyes and still not stop believing, hoping, and loving!
In all our imperfection we can become a neighbor to other people.
And we can apply our limited resources, our imagination, our particular gifts and capacities in the service of our neighbor and the service of the community.
It should be this way among us,
in our relationships with family members and friends,
in our communities and churches and also in the global ecumenical community.
Because it was for this that God’s Son has given His life and has redeemed us.
For this, God bless us! Amen.