Mark 10:32-34… They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem. Jesus was going ahead of them, and they were amazed, but those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was going to happen to him. 33 “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and experts in the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles. 34 They will mock him, spit on him, flog him severely, and kill him. Yet after three days, he will rise again.”
Following Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man, Jesus and his disciples continued to make their way “up to Jerusalem.” Because this holy city was set upon a hill it was customary to speak of going “up” to Jerusalem. Verse 32 says that Jesus was leading a crowd which included the disciples and others – probably Jews traveling to Jerusalem for Passover feast. The followers are described as “afraid” and “amazed” – the latter being a Greek term exclusive to Mark and used by him on three occasions, each time in reaction to Jesus’ teachings (1:27, 10:24, 10:32). Those who had followed Jesus were amazed at him while others were frightened by him.
At a certain point, however, Jesus took the Twelve aside once again and told them in no uncertain terms what his intentions were once he arrived in Jerusalem. In vv. 33-34 Jesus spoke to them a prophecy with absolute authority about how he would be arrested there and handed over to the chief priests and scribes. He told them that he would be condemned to death and turned over to the Gentiles (Romans). To add insult to injury, Jesus also predicted that he would be mocked, spit upon, beaten severely, and eventually killed. But after three days he would rise again. This was now the fourth time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus spoke of his impending death in Jerusalem (8:31, 9:12, 9:31, 10:33-34). This prophecy frightened the disciples and caused them to wonder if they should even accompany him to Jerusalem. But they did, and Jesus’ words were fulfilled right down to the last detail as can be seen in the passion narrative (Mark 14:43-16:8).
What does it say about Jesus that he could predict the future right down to the details of his death and his subsequent resurrection? Only that he’s God Almighty, and if he knew the future the way he did then He is sovereign over His creation, for He is the actual Creator of the universe (cf. John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). Jesus not only knew the future, he knew the exact times and events of the future. On many occasions in the Gospels Jesus’ “time” is mentioned in relation to his exact and perfect will. The Gospel of John is replete with references to Jesus’ “time” (2:4; 7:8, 30; 8:20; 13:1; 17:1). He knew when his ministry was to begin, and he knew when and how it would end. He went about his ministry with the boldness that only the Sovereign God can have. He set out to reveal himself to mankind, teach the Truth of sin and salvation, and fulfill the ultimate test of love – dying for sinners to satisfy God’s wrath.
Food for Thought
The man who approached Jesus seeking the answers to eternal life (Mark 10:17-31) called Jesus “good.” But good teachers, no matter how smart they are, can’t predict the future. Even if they could, and they knew they would die the way Jesus did, do you think they’d continue onward to the very place where it would occur? Of course not! They would avoid it to stay alive. Jesus, however, was more than good. He was (is) God in the flesh, and because he took on the flesh of mankind he determined to die like mankind FOR mankind. He had no intention of walking away from the very task he was sent to fulfill – to die on behalf of men for their sins so as to satisfy God’s wrath. Only this perfect man, fully God and fully man, could offer himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin. Those who believe this on faith are forever saved.
Mark 10:35-40… Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 He said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 They said, “Permit one of us to sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said, “You don’t know what you’re asking! Are you able to drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I experience?” 39 They said, “We are able.” Then Jesus said, “You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I experience, 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give. It is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
The first time Jesus mentioned his passion to the disciples Peter rebuked him. Jesus responded by saying, “Get behind me Satan!” On another occasion, in Mark 9:31, the disciples didn’t respond to the prophecy but later argued among themselves about which of them was the greatest. Now on this occasion, in 10:33-34, when Jesus speaks of his passion a similar thing occurs: the disciples, having learned their lesson not to argue with Jesus or try to hinder him, began to argue with one another – once again about who among them was the greatest.
In v. 35 James and John boldly approached Jesus to petition him to grant them to sit on his left and right in his glory. Seemingly ignoring Jesus’ prophecy about his death, James and John appear to be enamored with the entry into the holy city with their Lord. It’s clear that they recognized Jesus as the Messiah who was to enter Jerusalem and occupy King David’s throne and fulfill God’s covenant with David and Israel (2 Samuel 7:12ff.; Psalm 89). As such they had their eyes on their own glory and requested that Jesus exalt them to the places reserved for the king’s most honorable servants. The fact that Jesus had Jerusalem as his destination caused James and John to believe that his glory was imminent, and they wanted to seize the moment.
In v. 38 Jesus responded along the lines of, “What you don’t know is that sharing in my glory also entails sharing in my suffering.” Then Jesus used two images to illustrate this: the cup and the baptism. To share someone’s cup was a metaphor for sharing someone’s fate, and Jesus’ cup signified the wine of God’s furious wrath as a judgment upon human sin. And the baptism was as a metaphor for being immersed and overtaken by disaster. Jesus referred to the passion itself as baptism in Luke 12:50. In this “cup and baptism” Jesus showed his willingness bear the burden of God’s judgment on himself on behalf of man. So Jesus’ question to James and John dealt with their willingness to endure painful distress and suffering for the sake of the gospel.
In v. 39 the two men answered Jesus in the affirmative, once again showing how far apart their understand was between God’s plan and their own. Although Jesus did affirm that they would indeed drink from his cup and endure his baptism this likely only suggests that they would do so morally as they participated in Jesus’ passion. For no matter how they might suffer or die in their ministries, they would never endure the “cup” of God’s wrath as martyrs – only man’s. Then Jesus told them that to allow them to sit at his right and left was not his decision to make. The clear implication is that this was God the Father’s role, and He had already determined that.
Food for Thought
By simple virtue of being born we as humans are exceedingly sinful. One of the ways our sin manifests itself is through our desire to rule, have authority over others, and to have others covet our power. We’ll typically go to any length to gain that power too. This is natural, but it’s sinful because it’s selfish. Consider Jesus. The greatest man who ever lived, didn’t even have a place to lay his head at night (Matt. 8:20). And he sent his workers out as sheep among wolves promising them they’d be beaten, scourged, and hated because of him (Matt. 10:16-18, 22).
Mark 10:41-45… Now when the other ten heard this, they became angry with James and John. 42 Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and great men exercise their authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you. Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of all. 45 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.”
The other ten disciples are described as indignant toward James and John upon hearing their request to sit at Jesus’ right and left in glory. They were obviously jealous and fearful that James and John would secure some sort of advantage over them. But Jesus used the conflict as an illustration and a principle that is pertinent for all generations of believers.
In Jesus’ mind humility is the measure of true greatness. Examples of humility in the Bible include Abraham who said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). And Jacob who cried out to God, “I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown Your servant” (Gen. 32:10). And Moses, called the “most humble man on the earth” in Numbers 12:3, told God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11). And King David who prayed, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all” (1 Chron. 29:11-12). And King Hezekiah who “humbled the pride of his heart” (2 Chron. 32:26). God Himself said to King Josiah, “Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God,… I truly have heard you” (2 Chron. 34:27). The prophet Isaiah confessed to God, “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). And in the NT the greatest example of humility short of Jesus was John the Baptist who said, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove his sandals” (Matt. 3:11). It’s noteworthy that Jesus spoke of John as the greatest man born of women (Matt. 11:11). These people are forever remembered for their humble greatness.
Those in Palestine who were hated were those who lorded their authority over the Jews. It was the Roman emperor whose inscription of the coins of the day read, “He who deserves adoration.” While the emperors lorded (literally “ruled down”) their authority, there were others called “great men” who ruled with flattery, wealth, and prestige. But Jesus said that true greatness is about being a servant to all. Those who desire to be “first” must become last – the same way the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, did. He is the model of true greatness – a servant.
Food for Thought
The biblical examples of greatness have one common denominator: because they truly loved God they refused to seek personal glorification but gave all glory to Him. One man comments concerning the disciples: “It was not so much limited intelligence but excessive pride that prevented them from understanding and accepting Jesus’ teaching about such things as servanthood, self-sacrifice, humility, persecution, and his clear and repeated predictions about his own forthcoming sufferings and death.” Sure, the disciples had left everything to follow Jesus, but like many Christians through the centuries they focused more on what they could gain by doing such. But Christianity is not about what we can gain on this temporary earth. It’s about surrendering one’s life, taking up one’s cross, and following Jesus – and gaining eternal life.
1) Political Power Play (35-37) – Using family and friends to gain an advantage; to manipulate
· Matt. says mom came to Jesus; Salome, Mary’s sister (Matt. 27:56; Mk15:40; Jn 19:25).
· Preoccupied w/self wanting exalted positions; “sons of thunder.” Not shy!
· We mustn’t worship at church then blaspheme God when we leave.
2) Self-Serving Ambition (38-41) – A selfish view of leadership for self-gain.
· CUP=God’s wrath (cf. Matt. 26:39); BAPTISM =immersed in wrath (Lk 12:50).
· Both men did suffer for the gospel’s sake (James in Acts 12:2; John exiled to Patmos)
· Even at the last supper another argument broke out as to who was greatest (Luke 22:24)
3) Dominant Dictatorship (42a) – to “lord over” (rule down) a population
· Coins said: “He who deserves adoration.” Gave the illusion of ruling over a people.
· By jockeying for rank over their brothers J & J were imitating those they despised.
4) Captivating Control (42b) – “Great men” distinguished, prominent, illustrious, & educated
· Dictators use power; “great men” use popularity & personality; flattery.
· Self-seeking leaders who preach what “itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3).
1) The Precept (43-44)
· Lenski: “God’s great men don’t sit on top of lesser men, they bear them on their backs.”
· It is not to be so among you… to seek recognition, power, control, & self-advantage’
· It isn’t wrong to seek great usefulness for God, only wrong to seek the world’s greatness.
· Servant… from “diakonos” (hired help); Slave… “doulos” – owned, did what was told;
· Mark of a true servant is willingness to sacrifice for Christ w/o avoiding the difficulties.
· The axe & Christian… the axe can’t boast; the woodsman makes it; throws it out
· True greatness… willing to serve Christ no matter the cost, the place, or the pain.
2) The Pattern (45) – Isaiah 53:4-5
· Jesus came to serve (he taught, he fed, he healed, forgave, etc.)
· Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for MANY
Examples of humility in the Bible
- Abraham… “Now behold, I have ventured to speak… I am but dust…” (Gen. 18:27).
- Jacob… “I am unworthy of all the love & faithfulness You have shown…” (Gen. 32:10).
- Moses… “most humble” (Num. 12:3), said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11).
- David… “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all” (1 Chron. 29:11-12).
- Hezekiah… “humbled the pride of his heart” (2 Chron. 32:26).
- Josiah… “B/c your heart was tender & you humbled yourself…” (2 Chron. 34:27).
- Isaiah… confessed to God, “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5).
- J the Baptist… “…is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove his sandals” (Matt. 3:11).
- JC… took the form of a servant (Phil. 2).
Barclay… Today greatness is control, intellect, & wealth; with Jesus all of this is irrelevant.