Martin Luther King preaches Mark 10:31-52

Martin Luther King, press conference 1964

Martin Luther King, press conference 1964

This morning I offered a reflection on Mark 10:31-52. I reflected on the fact that following Jesus isn't necessarily about the perks--but more about God's mission in the world. Before I offered it I mentioned a February 4th, 1968 sermon by Martin Luther King titled "the Drum Major Instinct," which was on this same text. In it, King combines his astute social critique with the personal nature of the good news of Jesus. While King is generally known for his social activism, non-violence, and legendary speeches, he was first and foremost a Christian preacher.

Last week, I wrote about the hard teachings of Jesus. In this scripture passage things don't look like they are getting any easier. Jesus asks the disciples "can you drink from the cup I drink from?" That is to say, "you sure you can handle this?" The cross is plainly in view at this point in the story--the road ahead is not easy. This is how King powerfully describes the "cup" that Jesus inevitably drinks with contemporary relevance:

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. They called him a rabble-rouser. They called him a troublemaker. They said he was an agitator. He practiced civil disobedience; he broke injunctions. And so he was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. And the irony of it all is that his friends turned him over to them. One of his closest friends denied him. Another of his friends turned him over to his enemies. And while he was dying, the people who killed him gambled for his clothing, the only possession that he had in the world. When he was dead he was buried in a borrowed tomb, through the pity of a friend.

When ever King preached, Jesus seemed to have an edge that can be too easily lost in our own preaching and reflection. No doubt, King could see his own story, and the story of African-Americans in the story of Jesus.  King himself embodied the story of Jesus in many ways. No doubt, King tried to live in to the name "disciple" until his own death.

Truth be told, few of us will likely face the same social forces King did. But what's clear is that we never know what we are getting in to when we step forward to drink from the cup at holy communion, or when we step through the waters of baptism. We never know where Jesus might end up taking us.

Click below to listen to the full sermon.