April 02, 2023
• Rev. Rob Fuquay
Mark 1:19-20; 3:17; 10: 35-37; Acts 12:1-2
James: John! (upon seeing him he stands to embrace him. Guard quickly, roughly separates)
John: They told me not to touch you; to keep distance between us. (James nods in recognition) How are you?
James: I’m okay.
John: You don’t look okay.
James: Yeah, look whose talking! (brief pause) Little brother, really. I’m okay. I know I’m probably not leaving here, but I am okay.
I was thinking about a time when we were boys. Remember when we took out father’s fishing boat out by ourselves, even though we knew we’d be in trouble if we got caught?
John: No. I remember you said, “Let’s take the boat out!” And I said, “No. Father will have our hides!” And you said, “He won’t catch us. It will be fun. Quit being a coward.” That’s what I remember.
James: Okay, so it was something like that. Anyway, remember how we got caught in a storm, and you got really scared, and fell out of the boat?
John: Once again, let me correct you somewhat. I fell out of the boat because of your steering. And when you realized I fell out and was about to go under, you screamed, “Get back in the boat. If you drown, dad’s gonna kill both of us.” (both laugh)
James: Okay, I suppose it could have been like that…I guess I always had a way of leading you to trouble.
John: Good trouble.
James: Yeah, I suppose it finally is. Good trouble. Think about it. Just 3 or 4 years ago we were working for our father. We had one of the most successful boats on Galilee. We had hired servants working for us. Dad was going to hand over the business to us. And then I heard John the Baptizer preach. And I came and told you. And we started following him around.
Did I ever tell you what dad said to me? He wanted to know why we were doing that. And I tried to explain but I couldn’t really explain it. I just said, there was something about him. That what he says is powerful and I wanted to hear more. And father got upset. He said, “Well, if you want to go trapsing after some prophet and forfeit business for yourself, that’s your business but don’t drag your brother into it.” He said, “John will go wherever you do. Don’t waste his future.”
But we came back. We came back to work in the boat with him, and he was fine, until the day we met Him. John pointed him out to us and we started walking behind him. Remember what he said? I’ll never forget it. He turned around and asked us a question, “What are you looking for?”
I didn’t know what to say. I just knew I was looking for something…something more. But I didn’t know what it was. So I asked Him where he was staying? And he just said, “Come and see.” And so we did.
One week later, we were back in the boat and he came to us and said, “Follow me,” and that was it. We haven’t been back in that boat since. And here I am now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I did get here. And what I’ve wondered if is why he picked us to be in His inner circle. It was always you, me and Peter. We were always the closest. Think about it. Think of the things just the three of us saw. Like that day in Capernaum when we were at Peter’s house, and he healed his mother-in-law. The others didn’t see that.
And then there was that day in the home of that synagogue leader, Jairus. His daughter had died, and Jesus sent everyone out of the room except us, and he bent over her and said, “Talitha kuom….Little girl, get up.” And she opened her eyes and stood up. Healing was one thing, but this? We had seen anything close to this, but just us.
And then that day on Mt. Tabor when he appeared with Moses and Elijah. He was talking to them. Having a conversation with them! We saw that! You and I saw that!
Why us? Why was it us?
I thought it was because of what he saw in us. I mean you and I had been running a big boat. We were used to giving directions, leading people. None of the others had that experience. Peter was…a headcase. But he was a convincing headcase! I just figured it was because we had something the others didn’t. That’s why he chose us.
But you know when I started second-guessing that? That day in the Samaritan village where all the people shut their doors in our faces. No one would welcome us. And we begged him to rain down fire on that place. Destroy every one of them! And he got mad at us. Remember that. He was really angry with us, and remember what he said, “I didn’t come to destroy people. I came to save them.”
That was when I started to wonder why I was in his inner circle. I thought, ‘Man, if that’s your mission it ain’t mine.’ Some people aren’t worth saving. Some people don’t deserve to be spared.
But I nearly left the group that day we asked about having positions of honor in his kingdom.
John: Whoa. What? We asked? WE ASKED??
James: I know, I know. Are you ever going to let that go? I am the one who asked. Satisfied? But do you know why? Because I was too embarrassed to ask for myself. I was selfish enough to ask about having a place of glory, but I didn’t have the courage to do it without looking like someone else was with me.
He had been talking about his own suffering but I hadn’t been listening. I was just thinking about my question I wanted to ask. That’s what happens when you’re so focused on yourself and what you want. You don’t really hear people. He was talking about his suffering and I asked Him to give us positions of glory. My timing was little off that day.
But do you remember his answer? It was a question? When I told him we wanted to ask him for something. He said, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I think that’s the most important thing he ever said to me. And it’s what I was waiting for? What I wanted. What I wanted Him to do for me? After all that time of following Him and being faithful to Him, just once I wanted Him to ask, “What do you want? What do you need?”
But I realized He didn’t say need. He didn’t ask, “What do you need from me?” He asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” And I think I know why. I had to be honest about what I wanted from Him, before I could understand what I needed from Him.
This is when I started to realize why we were in the inner circle; why He invited us to be so close to Him. It wasn’t because we were special. At least for me. I won’t speak for you and Peter. I’ll just speak for me. It wasn’t because I was better than the others. He invited me to be closer to Him because I needed to be. I needed to be closer because I didn’t understand Him. I was so selfish and stubborn and hot-tempered. I needed to be closer, because I wasn’t getting it.
And of all places, it was his crucifixion where things started to make sense. I remember every detail about that day. When he emerged from the fortress, beaten, barely able to stand; staggering under the weight of the beam; stumbling up the hill to Golgatha; grimacing when they struck the nails. But it was the moment he died that sticks with me. When his head bowed and that was it.
The other disciples tell me to forget that moment. They say, think about what came after. Forget the pain. Focus on the good that came from it. But the good doesn’t make much sense if you skip the pain.
You see what I couldn’t get over is why someone who had the power to do so much to help others wouldn’t help himself? He healed people. He brought them back from the dead. He had the power to change this situation, but He didn’t. I mean, isn’t that what power is for? Don’t you have power to get what you want. Looking at Him on the cross I realized, No. No it isn’t. That’s not power at all. Getting what you want is privilege. Anytime we have the ability to get what we want it is a privilege.
But power is something different. Power is what you give away. Power is being able to use your privilege for yourself but not doing it. Using your privilege for others. Power is being able to get what you want but not using it. Power is about not being okay with what is going on, but still be okay within yourself.
I always thought the point of faith was to have privileges. Why believe in God if it doesn’t give you something? Whatever the rules I have to follow. Whatever the obedience that’s required. Just let me. I’ll do it if it leads to certain privileges. But I’ve come to believe that there’s something even better. Its not getting what you want and still being okay.
And that’s when I got my answer; may answer to his question: What do you want me to do for you? I realized, “That!” I want your power. I want your power to be okay no matter what.
Say, you know Latin. What does the phrase Ad Utrumque Paratos mean?
John: Ad utrumque paratos? It means “ready for either.”
James: (laughs lightly) I thought it had to mean something like that. I found a Roman coin not long ago. It had the image of an ox on it with an altar on one side and a plough on the other. Below it was the inscription ad utrumque paratos. Ready for either. Sacrifice or service.
I understand it now. I know it sounds crazy, but Little Brother, I’m not. I am okay. I’ve not given up. I believe we keep going as long as we can. We keep believing and keep resisting everything that is not okay in this world. But we understand that we don’t have to have everything be okay, in order to be okay.
I would love to grow old. I would love to have a family and one day see our grandchildren all around us. I would love that very much. But I’m okay, because the story of my life doesn’t end with my life.
He gave me what I needed…He gave me the power to let go of privilege and truly be able to embrace sacrifice or service. I’m at peace.
John, I want you to write it all down. Write everything you can think about Him. Tell His story. But do me a favor. Don’t mention me. Don’t use my name. If you talk about me, just say I was a disciple. Let people know it is not about us. Its all about what He can do for us. That’s what we most need.
I’m not alone. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay…
(piano softly begins as narrator enters…)
James son of Zebedee was executed in the year 44AD by King Herod Agrippa I. He was the first of the disciples of Jesus to die.
He did not write a Gospel or letter. There are no stories of miracles associated with him. But there is a myth about James. It says his remains were carried to Spain and buried beneath what is now the cathedral of Galicia. This, of course, cannot be proven, yet a tradition formed called the Camino de Santiago, or way of St. James, where millions upon millions have walked this path of pilgrimage; people of all walks of life, different races and nationalities, people seeking guidance and healing from the hurts of life, from the confusion of our world, from pain that makes no sense. And the way of St. James gives them peace. Perhaps they come seeking to understand and answer for themselves Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
(Narrator leaves as song begins. James continues to sit 1-1.5m, then soldier comes and nudges him with spear and leads him out as song continues.)