Mark 10:35-40 NRSV
The Request of James and John
35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
“The search for the cup of Christ is the search for the divine in all of us” Markus tells Indiana in the beginning of the film.
“Ask yourself, why do you seek the cup of Christ. Is it for his glory or for yours?” “I didn’t come for the grail; I came for my father.”
At the end of Indian Jones and the last crusade, Indiana, Dr. Elsa Schneider (the woman who betrayed him), and Walter Donovan (the treasure collecting Nazi sympathizer) arrive in the grail room where an ancient knight tells them they must choose which cup to drink from. The true grail will bring life the false grail will take it. The Nazi is dazzled by all the choices and asks Dr. Schneider to choose for him. She intentionally chooses incorrectly a huge chalice, and he says this must be right because this is the only cup that could belong to the king of kings. He dips the cup into the basin and drinks. The rapid aging that happened after he drank from the incorrect cup is the stuff of nightmares. The knight, seemingly unphased said, “he chose poorly”. Has this knight has watched so many people turn to dust for over 700 years he is unsurprised that someone has made the wrong choice yet again?
James and John, and so many disciples after them are looking for Jesus in the powerful, but he is not the king of kings they expect. He won’t have a thrown or a court or powerful advisors at his right and his left. Jesus isn’t a ruler who has a cup bearer; he is the one who bears the cup and serves the needs of the many. As we have witness throughout the gospel of Mark, Jesus plans to use his power, not for his own glory, but to improve the lives of vulnerable people. The overflowing power that Jesus radiates is for those without any power; not to glorify his disciples but to relieve the suffering of others. Jesus gives everything he has to those who need him, his life is poured out for those who are thirsty. Jesus’ way of living upsets those in power, and he knows he is going to feel the full weight of their hate very soon. He knows his blood will be poured out. And he asks the disciples, can you use your status and power to help others, can you live in a way of radical love, can you oppose the authorities who drain the life out of the oppressed, can you drink from this cup?
It’s Indiana’s turn to choose which cup to drink from. Again, Elsa helps him choose. This time, they find a small wooden cup, the cup of a carpenter. As Indiana approaches the water, we are reminded this grail quest was not his idea. He is doing this to rescue his father. His father is just outside the grail temple bleeding out from a bullet wound that the Nazis inflicted to get Indiana’s compliance. He drinks from the cup, risking his own life to save his fathers. He chose wisely. This is the correct cup. He fills the cup with water again and runs back to his father. Carefully, he gives him a sip. And then with reckless and holy abandon, he dumps the water into his father’s bullet wound and we see flesh repair under the bubbles. This moment feels a little like baptism. A man that was dying on the floor a moment ago rises with new life. He’s soaking wet and his friends are rejoicing. The cup, the treasure, is all but forgotten as his son helps him to his feet.
But that moment of joy is fleeting. As she has in the rest of the movie, the woman makes a decision that advances the plot and adds to the drama. She doesn’t know the love of family and friends that the others are experiencing in this moment. She does what she does to survive; she betrays, she double crosses, she looks out for herself. Like the disciples, she doesn’t understand that the grail, the cup of Christ, is to give life to those who need it, not to give power to those who already have too much. Elsa takes the cup in her hands and tells Indiana to the cup is his and hers. The implication is to come with her and live forever (sex and power are definitely part of the deal). She takes a few steps away from what was a joyful party and crosses the seal that the grail cannot cross. The grand hall shakes, and pieces of rock come crashing down, the floor splits into deep caverns, everyone loses their balance as the panic ensues.
This is why Jesus asks the disciples what is basically the same question twice. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Can you take this pain and suffering? Can you live the way I have lived? Sometimes it seems like the disciples get it; and sometimes it seems like they don’t. Jesus asks, are you sure, are you really sure.
You know, we thought earlier that Indiana got it, the whole grail quest thing, what was really important about living. But the beautiful woman falls into the cavern with the grail. She can’t quite reach it and he is struggling to hold her. She keeps reaching for the treasure, what she thinks will make her powerful, immortal, and rich. And despite his best-efforts Indiana can’t hold onto her. She falls to her death and Indiana falls into the cavern, taking her place holding onto the wall and reaching for the grail. This time Dr. Jones senior is the one begging Dr. Jones junior to give him both hands and Indiana is saying he can almost reach the grail. Junior, give me your other hand. I can get it. I can almost reach it Dad. Then with the music and mood change, Dr. Jones senior, in a very serious but gentle voice says, “Indiana, Indiana, let it go”. And he comes back to his senses grabbing what is important with both hands as his father pulls him to safety. This is the only time in the movie Dr. Jones senior calls his son, Indiana.
The disciples reply that they are able. Jesus confirms that they will drink from the cup and be baptized, but he can’t promise them seats of honor. They will suffer as Christ suffered, they will live as Christ lived, and they will belong to God. God will call them by name.
I can’t end this sermon without recalling the most iconic line from the film. Why do you call him junior? Because that’s his name, Henry Jones Jr. We named the dog Indiana. I had a lot of fond memories of that dog.
You see when God call us to let go of what we think is power, when God calls us to drink from this cup, when we are baptized as God’s own, when we affirm the calling to live differently, God calls us by our real name, our chosen name.
Today, as we gather around this table, we are untied with all who believe in Christ, with all of the saints and sinners who have gone before us, and with all of the saints and sinners we will not meet in this lifetime. We are united with all believers in every time and place. Christ welcomes all of us and calls each of us by name.
As we prepare to celebrate this meal, let us take a moment to remember who is here with us. Around this table are holy people who were imperfect and made mistakes and yet found in Christ freedom from sin and death and went on to do God’s work in the world. At this table we are surrounded by our enemies and our loved ones. And as we look into the face of each child of God, we realize that the things that divided us on this earthly world do not matter, there are no barriers between us, no hierarchy or prescribed status, there are no harsh words or hatefulness, but only love and unity among the children of God. This meal is a foretaste of the coming king-om of God, where true justice restores us to one another, and where love unites us. We imperfect people who make up this holy community, the church of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus was at table with his disciples he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: Take, eat. Whenever you do this, remember me. In the same way he took and poured the cup, saying: Take and drink. Whenever you do this, remember me. Now, whenever we eat and drink at this table, we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection until he comes again. (BCW p. 142 #2)
Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these your gifts of bread and wine that the bread we break and the cup we bless may be the communion of the body and blood of Christ. By your Spirit make us one with Christ, and one with all who share this meal, a great multitude from every nation. Keep us faithful to Christ’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers, sharing our goods with one another, and giving our possessions to those who are in need, so that all people may have their daily bread, this day and every day. Just as the grain, once scattered across the hills, was gathered together in this loaf of bread, gather your people from the ends of the earth, so that we may feast with you in glory in the joy of your new creation. Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory are yours almighty God, forever and ever. Amen. (BCW p. 625)
Jesus said: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matt. 5:6)
Holy God, we thank you for this feast of grace and life. As we have been served, help us to serve our neighbors. As we have been fed, help us to feed all who are hungry. As we have been loved, help us to love the world – because in Christ Jesus you have loved us. Amen. (BCW p. 147 #7)
May the God of justice lead us through tumultuous seas. May the Christ who came to dwell among us renew the strength of our dreams. May the Holy Spirit guide us to still waters where justice, solidarity, and peace reign. Amen. (BCW p. 626)