25th Sunday Ordinary Time – Context!

First shall be last

I’m paying more and more attention to the context within which the Sunday gospel appears to see how it either answers something that went before or sets up what’s coming or both. Let’s look at chapter 19…

19:13-15          Jesus blessed the little children whom the disciples spoke harshly to: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

19:16-22          The Rich Young Man sought Jesus’ approval for obeying the commandments. And he challenged him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’  When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”

19:23-30          The disciples got their shorts all in a bundle – “Who can be saved?”  Jesus gave them hope of reward in the reign of God to come – thrones and such.  He ended with, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

20:1-16          Jesus presses the disciples about their desires for riches – “the first will be last…” becomes the first bookend for the Sunday gospel about expectations.

The guys who worked all day expected to get paid more than those who worked only and hour.  They were envious (evil eye) and rebelled.  Here is his warning to the Twelve and all his disciples.  And he completes the other bookend saying, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

20:17-19          Jesus gives them his second prediction of his passion – his blueprint for discipleship based upon downward mobility.

20:20-28          THEN, the mother of James & John asks Jesus to grant her sons to sit at his left and right.  And all hell breaks loose.  They’re fighting about who’s the greatest.  A pattern appears.  And he teaches them.

“…but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

The human/disciple need for security, prestige, esteem, and heroic greatness drives us.  We then expect this or that.  Jesus goes right to the heart of our blindness to his mission – “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”


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