Access to Jesus

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus is met by two of the disciples who ask if they can sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in heaven. These are the two most powerful positions in that they place the guests close to the host. The right and left hand man have access. Perhaps their concerns were about an access that granted them power.

Jesus says it’s not up to him but to the Father. At the prison I visit, the men there once interpreted this passage for me: the first ones at Jesus’ right and left hands are the two thieves who are crucified with him, alongside him, at his right and left hands. To be closer to Jesus there isn’t about power but about kenosis, emptying.

This time I noticed a detail in the story that I had not before: Jesus tells the disciples that the greatest among them must be servants. But it’s not the two apostles who asked him to sit nearby that he tells this to. Rather he speaks to the ten who have come over to complain about what the first two asked for. This suggests that Jesus is cautioning communities against not only vying for power but also against excessive judgment. The apostles are instructed to focus on neither power nor judgment but rather serving one another as best as they can. They all have a kind of power by virtue of being apostles. But their power needs to be exercised in service to the community and not for their own selfish benefit.

We can also see here that access to Jesus has nothing to do with our own power but rather with God’s graciousness. Jesus calls the ten over to himself and spends time with the first two as well. Jesus talks to them. Jesus spends time tending to their concerns.

If it’s access and closeness to Jesus that we desire, it’s not power that gets us there. It’s not even service. Jesus already desires to communicate and to be in friendship with us. It’s God’s generosity that brings us to sit and be fed at the table.