A true story about how a stuck up, know –it-all got put in his place, with a happy ending to boot. Picture this scene. A coffee shop in Amsterdam. A male customer who blogs observes the following debacle unfold between an obnoxious man, a beautiful blond women with whom the obnoxious guy is flirting, and a harassed server who is new at her job.
Man: “Excuse me! I ordered a non-fat, non-sugar orange mocha chip frappuccino! This isn’t non-fat, and there’s no whip cream on it.”
Barista: “I’m so sorry, sir. I’ll remake it immediately.”
Man, to the blonde woman: “What is up with these guys!? They screw everything up.”
Barista: “Here’s your drink sir. I hope this one is up to standard.”
Man: “What are you, blanking thick headed! This is a plain mocha frappuccino! I wanted an orange chip mocha frappuccino! Get it right!”
(The barista remakes his drink again, but is clearly on the verge of tears.)
Man: “Oh my God, you people need to learn to speak English! I said non-fat. Don’t tell me it is non-fat, because I can taste—”
(At this point, the blonde woman decides she’s had enough of the man and interrupts him.)
Blonde woman: *in a strong Irish accent* “WILL YOU STOP BEING A JERK FOR FIVE MINUTES?! The girl has made the coffee perfectly this time—I watched her! And, even if she hasn’t, she’s young and clearly new at her job. It’s a blankedy-blank coffee! Cut her some slack!”
Man: “Excuse me, but I want what I asked for! I don’t see why that’s so hard!”
Blonde woman: “She probably looked at you, assumed you were a man, and was therefore completely confused by your non-fat non-sugar orange mocha chip frappuccino order. Real men drink real coffee, and they don’t bully teenage girls until they cry. Now, can you please stop being an almighty-know- it- all-jerk and just blank off?!”
Everyone in the coffee shop claps, and the man leaves, mortified. The male blogger who witnessed this all paid for the blonde woman’s coffee, and found out that she is from the same part of Ireland as he was. One thing led to another, and he asked her to marry him last Christmas. She said yes!
I apologize for all the blankedy-blanks, but we must keep it PG-13, and with all the creative minds here at Union, I have no doubt you can fill in the blanked-blanks.
It seems a curse of the human condition. We try to one-up each other. Churches want to have the latest and greatest choirs, or preachers. Ministers ever so subtly probe how many members are attending, how many souls got saved, how big is your stewardship campaign. I hear parents on the playground or in playground, depending on the zip code, making inquiries about which preschool one’s child is currently accepted or weight-listed. How many after school activities have your children crammed into their schedule? Friends, it’s a battle field out there. I currently live in Great Neck, the heart of Dragon Mother Land meets the Reigning Jewish High-Achiever, every corner there are scholastic enrichment centers for preschoolers up to high schoolers, primarily in Korean and Mandarin. Yoga centers, Tawodo, all -Day spas popping up everywhere, to attend to all the worries of your children’s A-, you & your husband s 16hr days, and these mega SUV boats are illegally hogging the pastor’s and elderly parking spaces at my other church. However, we weren’t talking about getting possessive today, were we, when parking spots are a premium in New York City?
Most of us have more in common with James and John than we care to admit, although we might not be as direct and blunt as they were. We want to be on the A list. In the picture shaking hands with the “got-to-know” person. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you (red flag there) .. grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” James and John were just planning ahead. They were confident that Jesus’ popularity would continue to increase. They would arrive in Jerusalem and meet with success beyond measure. Of course when this happened, when this happened, there would to an organizational chart ready, a structure plan put in place to cement the Jesus movement. James and John were stepping up for the job.
For good reason Jesus nicknamed the “the sons of Thunder.” John was the one who commented back in chapter 9 ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” On another occasion, when the people in a village of Samaria were not responsive to the message of Jesus, it was James and John who wanted to call down fire from heaven on them (see Luke 9:54). They were protective of Jesus’ ministry as they understood it. Jesus, furthermore, often them, along with Peter as an inner leadership team to key experiences for training, such as the transfiguration, or the raising of the little girl from the dead in Mark 5. Jesus also took them apart when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane. So no wonder they thought they were on the right track. They thought themselves the next Les Brown, the next Eric Thomas, the future Joel Osteen, bringing the true gospel to the next generation of believers. That’s why they saw themselves flanking Jesus, in the most important spots, in heaven.
At the time of James and John’s request, Jesus and his disciples and been making their way slowly to Jerusalem. Jesus had just predicted for the third time, in the most detailed of manners how cruelly he would die at the hands of the Gentile rulers. He specified he would be mocked, spat upon, flogged and killed. Even before these words were out of Jesus’ mouth, James and John were on a different target. Jesus’ again was misunderstand.
As a prophet, Jesus knew what awaited him. Yet Jesus didn’t act to preserve himself. He didn’t set down roots in a hospitable town to teach heal, and stay alive. Jesus had to remain true to his vision, the vision give to him by his Father: and he wants his disciples to catch on to: be great. However greatness in God’s heaven is measured by service – not by being served.” For the son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus came, ready to pay the price for others. The concept of ransom was a common motive in Jewish theology, written in into the liturgical rites of the “ransom of the first-born,” to the ancient Levitical codes to how one ransomed land, ransomed slaves, payment to families wronged by murder or rape, or damaged property, crops, animals. The prophet Isaiah, also stepped in the concept of ransom, wrote about the Israelite exiles that God had taken pity had:
13 I have aroused Cyrus[a] in righteousness, and I will make all his paths straight; he shall build my city and set my exiles free,
not for price or reward, (ransom) says the Lord of hosts. God is saying that Cyris, will set the people because he is righteous, not because he is expecting to be paid, as was customary.
Jesus, therefore, sees his life’s purpose not to be a hot shot rabbi, the Wonder Boy from Galilee, who can work miracles, the trending Teacher and Preacher, the activist, the Anti-establishment leader who will cleanse the Temple of the Hasmonians, the Pharisees, Saducees and Romans in one feel swoop. So say the zealots. By this time, the word, “ransom,” used here, was commonly used for the price used to free slaves, the “liberty price.” Jesus’ mind is not on glory and what cushy seat he may or may not have. His heart is set on freeing people. He is prepared to give over his life as a ransom in order that others, in bondage, may be freed.
Sarah and Angelina Grimke, were among the first prominent organizers of the anti-slavery movement back in the 1830s, yet Congress quickly passed a gag order in 1835 to silence the movement. Mobs jeered the movement, burned down their meeting place. The Quaker meeting house forced them to choose between whether they would be “respectable members in good standing” or continue with their abolitionist cause. Newspapers called Angelina “Devilina” because she defied local custom by speaking in public, as a woman, against slavery. These women, were clearly misunderstood and maligned, but they were willing to pay the price, just as Jesus, centuries earlier, laid down the gold standard for us. He paid the ransom for us all. He freed us bondage.
Few of us are in bondage from actual slavery, thank God. We have courts that deal with issues that the ransom matters of Leviticus addresses. However, we are in bondage.
How many of us gets impatient, or put down someone else who gets our order wrong at the coffee shop. Or at the bagel shop? Or the Falafel truck? Or wherever we get our food? We are in bondage.
How many of us judge a driver, mutter a unkind statement, because there are too close, only to realize there was someone walking by, or maybe they were just having a bad day? We are in bondage
How many of us have put our jobs, our hobbies, favorite TV shows before God? We are in bondage.
How many of us pray daily? Consistently? Do we consider praying for someone who has hurt us? If not, we are in bondage.
How many of us believe Jesus truly loves us, died for us, has a personal relationship with him as Lord of our lives, and experiences a sense of freedom and joy? If not, we are in bondage.
Anything less, is less than what Jesus wants for our lives. Jesus didn’t pay a ransom so we can be miserable. He came so that we can have an abundant life, overflowing life, a life that flow outward, embracing the world, not just inward, focusing only on me, me, me, just what I can get. If that’s your mindset, than you are in bondage, you need a ransom, and I got good news. There is someone who has paid that ransom. His name is Jesus. He is here to serve us, and show us, how blankity-blank awesome life can be with him. That, my friends, is a true story. It doesn’t get any better than that.