“A Price to Pay”
Last week, we saw the great difficulty of entering the Kingdom of God. Jesus and the disciples encountered a man who thought he needed to add “finishing touches” to his eternal life. When confronted with the Law of God, the man did not come to grips with his sin and went away sorrowful. Jesus seized the opportunity to explain to his followers what is required to be a true disciple. In this case it involved a relinquishing of worldly wealth for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. He spoke of sacrifice and persecution that are involved in following after him.
At the beginning of chapter 10, Jesus and the disciples have begun their journey south to Jerusalem where he will complete his mission. I find it interesting that people misunderstand and misrepresent the mission of Jesus. Often times what is emphasized is the miraculous healings, demon exorcisms, or the ethical teachings or social justice of Jesus’ ministry. These are important to understand. Jesus did perform miracles and expel demons in order to authenticate himself as the Son of God. And Jesus did act as an advocate for the oppressed and the outcast. But make no mistake, Jesus came with a cross always in view. And we will see this included in our text this morning. Jesus seems more resolute now than ever as our text indicates. Let’s read as we get underway. READ.
If you’re reading from the ESV, you notice that the first section heading is “Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time.” And this implies that there was a “first” and “second” telling. You remember in Mark 8.31 that Mark records, “31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” After this, Peter rebukes Jesus and receives a harsh rebuking himself from Jesus. And in Mark 9.31-32, “31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” As a result, our first point this morning is “Mission Incomprehensible.” As we will see once again that, for the disciples, the message does not register.
Verse 32 tells us that they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem. And if you are familiar with the layout of the land, you already know we are going south. And you may wonder why they go “up” to Jerusalem. I think this is best understood as an elevation issue. Jerusalem is situated on a plateau above the roadway. And so this description is used frequently regarding a journey to this city. And yet this is the first time that Jerusalem is mentioned as the destination.
And Jesus is resolute. The beginning of the gospel is characterized by Jesus’ silencing people about his identity and mission because there was more work to do in training his disciples and such. But this is the case no longer. Jesus has been teaching his disciples more intensely since his first announcement of his death.
In fact, I believe the language that Mark uses here communicates this sense of urgency and resolution. He indicates that Jesus was walking ahead of them. Jesus does not normally do this. He is usually walking side by side, talking, instructing the disciples. Here he seems to press on with a quick pace. And I think that this is why Mark indicates that the disciples were amazed and the others were afraid. This was something different and the people were getting a little concerned.
The text doesn’t suggest this. But perhaps the disciples questioned him on this increased pace. Jesus pulls the disciples aside and he reminds them of what was to happen to him. “Listen up. See. Behold. We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes.” Jesus, the Son of Man, will be delivered. Do you know what those three words indicate to me? This is all part of God’s divine and sovereign plan. You see, this is what scholars refer to as a “divine passive.” This is a passive verb with an implied subject. And God is the subject. Jesus has said that he has come to do the will of his Father. God, the Father, has sent Jesus to us as a baby so that he would one day die on a tree to pay the debt for sins. The “divine passive” indicates that all is going according to plan. And there is certainty in the words of Jesus.
He goes on. Jesus will be handed over to the Jewish leaders who will in turn hand him over to the Gentiles – the Roman authorities. And they will mock the Son of God and they will spit on Jesus, flog him and kill Jesus the king. Oh, and did I mention? He will rise from the dead! For Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life!
And then James and John say, “Oh. I get it! So you are going to suffer and die. And if we are to emulate you, we can expect the same.” NO! They begin to ask Jesus if they can have places of prominence when Jesus establishes his kingdom! They still think that he is going to Jerusalem as Messiah in order to take the throne. If this wasn’t written down in the Scriptures, I wouldn’t believe it!
But truly. This shouldn’t be all that surprising. Tell me if you haven’t had an experience like this. As clearly as you can, you articulate the same message. Some of you may even go back to Creation. God created the world perfectly. In fact, he made man and woman and they too were perfect and sinless. But it didn’t last long. They rebelled against God and sin came into the world. But this didn’t surprise God because he had a plan in place. He would insert a temporary provision for sins by sacrificing spotless animals for forgiveness. Then the people would understand when another spotless Lamb, the Perfect One would come and pay the price for all sins on the cross. This way God can remain perfectly holy and just and yet save sinners by having his own Son pay the price for his people.
And if people would just trust in this provision by repenting of their sin and believe in Jesus Christ, they can be reconciled to a holy God and enjoy a relationship with him for all eternity. Salvation is by grace alone and through faith alone because Jesus has already accomplished the work for us.
Your friend or family member may nod as if they agree and then continue to try to earn their salvation. Or they may just think that this is just the craziest notion. And who would believe such a ridiculous story? And then you recall the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:18 “18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The second point is “Supremacy, Suffering, and Service.” James and John, following the disturbing words of Jesus’ fate, came up to Jesus and ask this ludicrous question. I mean, how does this happen? “Jesus, yeah. I know. I get it. You’re going be handed over and mocked and spit and flogged and killed. You’ve told us like what? Three times now. But listen. We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” They do not consider the immensity of his fate. The consider only themselves. They are so selfish. How DARE they?? We never do ANYTHING like this!!
Isn’t it true that there are many who come to Jesus for what they can get out of him? There’s a sermon in answering this question alone. In fact, the book God is the Gospel sets this one straight. Or maybe this is best reflected in our prayer life. Times are good. God is neglected. The crisis hits. “God, help me out of this mess. O please God, could you just…? For me? I need… I want… I want you to do for me whatever I ask of you.”
Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” This question does not suggest that he will grant the request, as we will see. I think Jesus is drawing them out, exposing their hearts, and providing a valuable lesson for them. In their utter self-absorption, they ask for places of prominence. They want to sit next to the Lord Jesus and have the power to impose their will on others. They still thought that Jesus was going to establish the kingdom and they wanted dibs on the prominent places. After all, they WERE the closest to him.
And in his mercy and compassion and patience, Jesus does not sharply rebuke them. And he asks this curious question, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Now what does drinking and baptism have to do with anything here? Well, if you’re familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures as these disciples likely were, you would understand better. Throughout the Bible, the cup is a symbol of suffering. Listen to the imagery in Isaiah 51:17 “17 Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering. Isaiah 51:22 “22 Thus says your Lord, the Lord, your God who pleads the cause of his people: “Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more.” Or the Psalmist in Psalm 11:6 “6 Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
And when Jesus refers to his baptism, he is not referring to the event at the beginning of the Gospel with John the Baptist. “Baptism” was a metaphor for an immersion into calamity. Psalm 42:7 “7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.” Psalm 69:1 (ESV) “1 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.”
And for some reason, the two disciples believe they are able to endure the same things that their Lord will endure. In fact, it is true that they will have to suffer and endure similar things. Jesus indicates that here in our text. And many history accounts suggest that many of the disciples are martyred for their faith – including James here. Acts 12.2 indicates that Herod the king carried out violence on those in the church and killed James, the brother of John with the sword. Jesus cannot honor their request for this decision is in the hands of the Father. But he can guarantee their suffering.
The others apparently overheard the conversation and were indignant at James and John – but not because of their insensitivity to the Lord. More likely it was because they had beat them to the punch. This is likely the case because of Jesus’ follow-up instruction in verse 42. In fact, he identifies their thoughts as pagan. Their hearts reveal their self-centeredness and their lust for power and authority. This is what the pagans do. But… it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you, must be slave of all.
Disciples are called to be different from the world. Our lives are to be characterized by humility, selflessness, and service. We are to leave the power-hunger, the pride, the self-absorption to the world. This cannot infiltrate the church. And yet it does. We’ve come to the place where we think that Jesus and his church are here for our benefit. And in part, this is true. But only a small part.
There was a church movement in the past couple of decades that helped moved this along, in my mind. Churches were designed with a consumer mentality. So the church functioned as a means to meet the needs of people. And so the congregations bought into a mindset that believed that we come to church, as consumers, to get our needs met. I think Jesus stands this on its head. Let me paint a picture for you.
What if we understood Jesus as saying that the disciple is to seek the lowest place and serve one another? What if we did not seek positions of influence and power and resolved to seek the low places? And serve brother and sister in Christ? What if we understood our role in the church using my God-given gifts and abilities to be used sacrificially for others?
I know. We’ve all been through membership classes and know that there is an expectation that we serve in some capacity at the church. And so we strive to be as minimally involved as we can and yet we are able to say that we help out in this particular area of service. We’ve done our time in the nursery or Jr. Church. Check the box.
Leaders are not immune from this. In fact, elders are called to demonstrate faithful character and service. Biblically, there is clear leadership and authority in the church. Some try to remove any and all authority. This is unbiblical. And yet the leaders in the church do not domineer or “lord it over” those in their care. Rather they lead by example. 1 Peter 5:1–3 says, “1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” Leaders serve the flock by leading, guiding, and demonstrating faithful Christian service.
Verse 45. And we all look to the ultimate example – our Lord Jesus Christ. James and John and the other disciples thought that Jesus came to immediately establish his kingdom and be served. Mark indicates that Jesus came to serve his followers. In fact, his service involved his very life. Jesus came to die on a cross to ransom prisoners. The picture presented here is one in which Jesus is buying people back from slavery or prison or death by paying a price. In this case, the price was the life of the Son of God. There was a high price to pay. And only Jesus could afford it.
This was prophesied by the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah. In chapter 53, he writes, “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”
Jesus provides an example that we cannot exceed. We cannot outserve him. And with that, Jesus and the disciples return to the road on their way to Jerusalem.
And this introduces our third point, which is “Blind Faith.”
Along the way, they come to Jericho. Mark does not include any details of what took place within the city but picks up on their exit. As Jesus, the disciples, and a large crowd depart Jericho, there was a blind beggar who was sitting by the roadside. And his name is Bartimaeus. I want you to notice the contrast between the disciples interaction with Jesus and Bartimaeus’ interaction with him.
Bartimaeus apparently had some idea who Jesus was and he identifies the man from Nazareth as Jesus, the Son of David. This title of Jesus has strong Messianic overtones. Somehow this beggar knows who Jesus is. And because he knows, he begs for mercy. Already you begin to see a contrast. The disciples were thinking quite highly of themselves and looking for prominence. The blind beggar knows his state and requests mercy. And he causes a disturbance so that people began trying to get him to be quiet. After all, this was a street person, an outcast. But his persistence prevailed and he cried out even more for Jesus.
And then Jesus stopped. And then said, “Call him.” Notice the change in the crowd’s mood here when Jesus suddenly takes notice of the man. They go from rebuking the man and silencing him to “Hey buddy! Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”
When Jesus calls, the man immediately springs up, sheds his cloak, and comes to Jesus. Jesus says to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” This is a familiar question. The blind man does not ask to sit on a throne next to Jesus. He simply replies, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” A simple, humble request. The kind that Jesus honors here. Jesus says, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” Or “your faith has saved you.” The man is healed. His sight is restored and he follows Jesus on the way. Why is it that this blind beggar on the side of the road seemingly understands Jesus better than the disciples?
This encounter between Jesus and the man portrays a beautiful picture of salvation. And I think that this is why it is recorded here. Jesus often used physical examples to communicate spiritual truth. Let’s just look at a couple of the parallels. Doesn’t this blind beggar on the side of the road represent the sinner in his lost condition? He is not like the rich young ruler from last week’s test who thought he was pretty good. Perhaps he just needed the clincher to ensure eternal life. This blind man knows that he is in a desperate situation. He recognizes that this Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messsiah. He humbles himself and begs for mercy. Unlike so many, he does not consider the fear of man but continues to persist and cry all the more to Jesus. Somehow, he knows that Jesus is his only hope.
The sinner, too, comes to grips with his desperate condition. He then hears of Jesus who is the Savior to sinners. He recognizes Jesus and in his desperation begs for mercy. The sinner does not consider what others may think because he no longer cares what people think. He cares only for the favor of the Master. He knows that Jesus is his only hope.
The humility of Bartimaeus is recognized by the Lord and he calls for him. And in faith, the man responds to the call of Jesus. Jesus searches the heart, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus’ humble response reveals a heart that wants to see and believes that Jesus is able to do something. Jesus rewards his faith. Bartimaeus is changed forever. He now knows the Savior, leaves everything behind and follows him on the way.
The sinner is humble before Jesus and responds to his call. The repentant sinner is given sight instead of blindness because of his faith. He is changed forever. He now leaves everything behind and follows Jesus.
This interaction challenged me. There are a couple of things that glare at me. First, the cloak. The cloak was probably everything to him at this point. It probably served as his bed, his warmth on cool nights. Perhaps it had pockets that held some coins that people threw in his direction. It seems as though when Jesus calls him, he casts everything aside to follow him. Mark doesn’t say he returned for the cloak.
Second, the man followed. Why? He got what he wanted, right? He regained his eyesight. Why didn’t he go about with his own life and plans? In fact, Jesus says “go your way” and yet the man goes with Jesus. Doesn’t this sometimes characterize us as Christians? We get what we want out of Jesus and we go back to our own way.
Let me ask you. Have you considered your state before God? Do you approach Jesus like the wealthy man from last week thinking you’ve pretty much got it together? It wouldn’t hurt to sprinkle a little Jesus on top to make sure you’ve got your bases covered. Are you like the disciples in this text that approach Jesus for what you can get out of him? Maybe you even said a prayer because you wanted your ‘get out of hell free’ card? Or you want to go to a place without sickness? Would you want to go to heaven if Jesus wasn’t there?
Or are you like the blind beggar on the side of the road? Have you come to Jesus begging for mercy because you know your sin? I hope that you can humble yourself before him and shed the fear of people. Jesus is the promised Messiah who became the ransom for many. He paid a price you could not pay so that you would no longer remain alienated from God. Repent of your sin and put your faith in him today. You do not know if you will have another chance. Let’s pray.