Sermons 2006
"Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Proper 24B 2006 Mark 10:35-42

I was driving up to Shrinemont Monday morning for the annual clergy retreat. As I approached the mountains I was thinking about this Gospel lesson for today. I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the idea that wanting to be number one or to be first was such a bad thing. So I decided to let it rest for a while in that cluttered attic of my mind.

It wasn’t until I reached Shrinemont and was taking a closer, deeper reading of the Gospel that I realized that Jesus wasn’t necessarily talking about ambition. Not at all. So I began to dive even more deeply into what Jesus was saying about the baptism he was about to undergo and whether or not James and John were up to the same.

It so happened that on my drive to the mountains I was listening to an audio course entitled “The History of the English language that I had started some years earlier and had for some reason that may have seemed good at the time, no longer attempted. The lecturer pointed out that modern day English words with ancient roots still carry with them their ancient cultural symbols, meaning, and impact on us whether or not we consciously realize it or not.

And so I began to address what Jesus was saying about the baptism he was about to face and his question to James and John in that light. Suddenly a whole new thought world opened as I dove deeply into the depths of these Scriptural waters and the ancient root words of the Greek of the New Testament and their strength and power.

The most ancient Greek root word from which our modern words baptism and baptize are drawn is “baptw”. Bapto is a primary verb; to whelm, that is, cover wholly with a fluid; in the New Testament only in a qualified or specific sense, that is, (iterally to moisten apart of one’s person, or to stain with dye, usually they dying of wool.

Its koine or New Testament Greek derivative is baptizw…. Baptizo: to make whelmed to make fully wet; used in the New Testament of ceremonial ablution, especially of of Christian baptism: - to baptize, to wash.

It then becomes easy to see how these ancient root words affect our every day speech and thought patterns. Bapto: to whelm, cover fully with fluid – overwhelm – in the dying of wool. In election years we hear terms like “dyed in the wool Democrat” or “dyed in the wool Republican”. Bapta Democrats and Bapta Republicans. Zealous partisan politics, is it not?

Perhaps even more pertinent to what Jesus was saying about the baptism he was saying comes from the derivative meaning of Bapto: baptize – to wash. To wash in the blood of the Lamb is symbolic language of baptism as it is understood in many contemporary religious circles. It combines both the ancient imagery of making fully wet and staining. In our own baptisms we are overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, immersed fully – overwhelmed -- in the blood of the Lamb, and marked as Christ’s own forever.

There were two kinds of baptisms accepted by the Church from the beginning. The predominant one in our time is the baptism by water and the Holy Spirit as we know it. But the other one was the baptism by blood. This is what Jesus was telling James and John. The baptism of blood was baptism by martyrdom. He didn’t sound sure those two were the stuff of martyrs.

Before we judge James and John too harshly, we need to remember that they had left their homes, their family, their jobs, to follow Jesus. And at night, as they lay under the stars, they shared their hopes, their dreams for where life was leading them. And one of the things they hoped for was a place of honor in Christ's kingdom. They were ambitious. Jesus never condemned anyone for being ambitious--only for being ambitious for the wrong things.

But even their crude ambition came from their deep and abiding faith in Christ. The great Scottish New Testament Commentator William Barclay wrote that "There are many negative things that can be said about James and John. They were ambitious and proud and believed they deserved, places of honor in Jesus' kingdom. They were ignorant and insensitive: their request for places of honor came right after Jesus had told of His coming suffering and death. But there's one positive thing you can say about James and John: they believed in Jesus. Here was a poor, homeless, persecuted carpenter and yet James and John believed Jesus was a king. They believed that He would conquer the power structure of Rome." (2)

James and John knew their future was linked to his. Wherever he went, they would go. Whatever glory he achieved, they would have their proper share. They sounded foolish but the bottom line was that they believed in him. Though a whole empire and the religious establishment was against them, they believed this carpenter would prevail.

When they made this request of Jesus, however, he said, "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" They said to Him, "We are able."

James and John had that raw enthusiasm that often characterizes new believers, but they didn't have a clue what real faith was all about. But they knew their Savior. They knew their God. James and John were guilty of pride. They were not guilty, of a lack of faith in and commitment to Christ. Perhaps that’s why, whenever anything significant happened in Jesus' ministry, these two brothers were there.

The tradition tells us they served him right up until their deaths by martyrdom. We don't know if they got to be first or second after Christ in heaven or not. What we know that wherever Christ is, James and John are there too. But they lived and died fully immersed in Jesus, overwhelmed by the blood of the Lamb, and were marked as Christ’s own forever.


1. Strong’s Greek Dictionary; Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
2. Wm Barclay, Mark, as quoted in “A Place of Honor,” Collected Sermons, King Duncan, Dynamic Preaching,
3. “A Place of Honor,” Collected Sermons, King Duncan, Dynamic Preaching,

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Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579