Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 42-45 NIV)
Mary looked in wonder on her first born son,
now 10 years,
where he played in the dust with his brothers by the door.
Only a week before they had seen their first soldier,
a Roman parading, guarding a puppet
of the puppet king with some proclamation
(and a new tax) to the provinces,
and had had to have “King” and “rule”
and “reign” and “tax” and “Rome”
explained a thousand times,
until their young ears were somehow satisfied
(and Joseph thoroughly tired of the subject)
and now…it was a game.
“Y’shua be king. Y’shua be king.”
chanted the younger sons,
holding up a cloth scrap cape
and a crown woven of brittle vines.
(Mary had to restrain herself
at the sight of the rough crown…
what impulse was this..?
to snatch and crush and burn..?
What pain the simple sight
of a child’s toy could bring.
She put a hand to her head
and one to her heart and wondered,
not for the first time, if she might be mad.)
Y’shua squatted eye to eye
with his younger brother, James.
“I cannot be king.”
“But you are the oldest…
you’re the first born…
you must be king.”
Y’shua shook his head and smiled,
“I am oldest…but you,”
he tugged affectionately
on his eight-year-old brother’s robe,
“are first born son of our father Joseph…
my father is God.”
James pulled impatiently away.
He had heard this story before.
“Y’shua, you be king.”
Stubborn, he held up cape and crown.
“God’s son can be king.
James will collect the tax.”
“God’s son is your servant…
he cannot be king.”
Instantly, the humor was gone from Y’shua’s face.
He listened intently,
sank back on his heels and into thought.
It was a posture Mary had come
to recognize, but not to love…
this slipping away to silence…
this withdrawal to communion with an unseen other…
from which Y’shua always returned
trailing glory and full of ideas
far too old for his age.
(Oh, she knew where he went—
knew, too, the voice he listened to
(for voices had spoken to her in her time)
but she could not repress a mother’s jealousy,
a mother’s fear…
her first born would be snatched away too soon.
Could not God leave a mother
her joy for these few years?)
Y’shua reached absently for the woven crown,
turned it in his fingers, tightened loose vine ends,
while his words came up from the quiet distance of his heart.
“God is king…but not king like the puppet of Rome.
His crown is kindness.
He wears a cape of mercy lined with forgiveness.
He needs no soldiers to protect his holiness.
His kingdom is hearts and his only tax is love.
We are all his children and his delight is to serve us…”
Y’shua focused finally on his brother’s face.
“And I am his son.”
He stood and dusted his hands
and placed the woven crown
on his brother’s head.
James snatched it off and frowned…
the younger sons’ faces crumpled,
lips trembling, toward a wail.
“All right…all right…I will be your king…”
Y’shua laughed, then serious again,
“but you don’t know what you ask.
You do not know what it is to serve a servant king.”
Y’shua draped himself in the tattered cape,
put on the woven crown,
walked resolutely into the merciless sun
of the street trailing his crowd of brothers
(already squabbling over
who would be captain of the guard).
Mary shuddered from the roots of her soul
and all but cried out loud.
She knew, she feared,
in the silent center of herself,
exactly what it meant to serve a servant king…
She saw, with a mother’s eyes,
the blood and thorns in the woven crown.