Mark 10:32-45 NLTse They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him. (33) “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. (34) They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.” (35) Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” (36) “What is your request?” he asked. (37) They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” (38) But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” (39) “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. (40) But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” (41) When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. (42) So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. (43) But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, (44) and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. (45) For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This was the third time Jesus tried explaining scriptures about Himself. Did you ever have something on your heart, and no one would listen? Can you imagine what Jesus went through? Not only was Jesus running out of time while the disciples showed little progress, He also needed real support. Jesus was searching for a real friend who would be there in heart, soul and mind. Not just a friend jumping in at the last minute in a show of support, but one willing to sit down and listen. Jesus was showing His human side, and a side of God people do not want to admit exists.
Do we really think Moses convinced God to give Israel a second chance, or God didn’t know Abraham would plead for Sodom? Are these examples and others written to show the compassionate side of God?
What kind of friends would change the subject when the one they love is talking about his impeding death? What kind of a friend would change the subject to ask a favor? Does this show a lack of attention or affection? Not one of the disciples defended Jesus, came to His aid, or corrected James and John when they asked for the highest honors they thought Jesus could offer. Instead they were thinking only about themselves and how the situation effected their future with Jesus. Not the future Jesus was trying to explain at the time, but the future they wanted.
Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.”
When you know Jesus, you can see the distinctive pauses He used while teaching. Can you see them here? Can you imagine how Jesus paused between every detail, giving time for God’s Spirit to reach the hearts and minds of the disciples? What verses was the Spirit bringing to their minds? It may have been a Psalm. “Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about. They repay me evil for good. I am sick with despair. You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me.” (Psalms 35:11-12, 69:19-20 NLTse). How many more was the Spirit reminding them of?
As soon as Jesus told them, He would rise again after three days, James and John, spoke up, “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” Jesus did not rebuke them, Instead He allowed them to continue. “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” It was not posed as a question, or a request, but more along the lines of a reminder. The two brothers thought they did something to deserve a favor. Not only a favor, but the highest positions in Jesus’ Kingdom. A Kingdom they did not understand. What type of people apply for a leadership role in a company they do not understand? Their request was not only out of line, but near sighted and misguided. At this point the disciples still expected Jesus to call an army from Heaven to crush Rome. They expected Jesus to take David’s throne to rule the world for an eternity. Was this why they did not want to listen to Jesus’ explanation of the plan of salvation? Imagine what Jesus must have felt. Not only was He denied the support He was looking for, His disciples had no interest in the plan of salvation Jesus came to fulfill according to the scriptures. There is nothing in this world we can compare their error to. Except for the world’s disregard and lack of interest in God’s plan of salvation today.
Today we see the same lack of interest in the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. There is a reason this lack of interest is repeated in Mark’s Gospel three times. Mark makes it clear the disciples were more interested in who was the greatest, than giving Jesus the support He needed. History has a way of repeating itself. What are Christian churches teaching today? When we see James and John claiming special favors, it is in fact another prophecy church leaders want to ignore?
In the previous story we saw a rich young man come to Jesus. When Jesus told him, “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me,” the man turned and walked away. Think about this situation for a moment. A skilled, industrious young man can give away everything and succeed a second time. If he had faith in God, and was in fact blessed by God, there should have been no doubt in his mind God will bless Him again. He would have viewed a second success as a testimony to God and welcomed the opportunity with open arms. On the other hand, if he made his fortune by less than moral and lawful means, giving up a fortune to follow the Son of God would have been giving up more than riches. It would have meant giving up the way of life and skills that made him rich. How does this apply to Christianity today, and their lack of interest in the life of Jesus and the lessons He taught?
Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” Think about the subject of baptism today. Is it a public display about choosing a life of suffering like Jesus? Or is it a list of doctrines and pledging to change for a church? Are churches preaching Jesus or replacing Him?
Throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is repeating lessons the disciples seemed unable to comprehend. Are churches suffering from the same lack of attention the disciples displayed? Churches claim this and that symbol represents them. But what really represents a church? Jesus’ individual followers. They have always been and will always be His chosen church. And who better to represent His church then His closest friends, the disciples He taught. When Mark clearly indicates the inadequate learning process of the disciples, he is pointing forward to the church as a whole, on both the corporate and individual level.
We see this pattern repeated in the Bible. First Moses and Joshua followed God, then Israel fell away. Israel wanted a king. David and Solomon tried to draw close to God, then Israel divided and feel away. The same pattern repeats in the New Testament. The new church began with Jesus, then the disciples. As it grew, the Christians fall away. What makes any group falling away think Jesus owes them special favors like John asked for? What makes them think they can do anything to demand one little thing from God? What makes them think they have power to achieve a level worthy of asking Jesus for anything beyond what He is willing to give? We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:22-26 NLTse).
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Who are we called to serve? What gives us the the right to pick and choose who we should serve, or who we should serve along side of? Who is our guide? A delegation of men, of God’s Holy Spirit?