35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do
for us whatever we ask." 36 "What do you want me to do for
you?" he asked. 37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your
right and the other at your left in your glory." 38 "You don't
know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the
cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
39 "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You
will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized
with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These
places belong to those for whom they have been prepared." 41 When
the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
42 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. 43 Not so with you. Instead,
whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and
whoever wants to be first must be 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."
week we considered the rich man who came to Jesus asking what he must
do to inherit eternal life. Jesus loved him by showing him what was
most important to him. His possessions. At the 10 am service we
identified that the rich man had broken at least two of the commands
he claimed to revere. Exodus
shall have no other gods before me. 4 "You
shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven
above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
week we have James and John letting their ambition become their God,
their idol, what was most important to them. It was more important
than what Jesus wanted. Teacher," they said, "we
want you to do for us whatever we ask."
ambition was more important than their relationship with their fellow
disciples. They wanted to sit alongside Jesus and didn't care about
the other ten who were, understandably, indignant, verse 41. Perhaps
they were indignant because they had not thought to ask! They
were following the way things were, and are done, in the world.
Every man for himself. Gain your worth by dominating others. But,
Jesus said, verse 42, You know that those who are regarded as
rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials
exercise authority over them. Before
this passage, and after the meeting with the rich young man, Mark
recorded Jesus telling his disciples about his betrayal, rejection,
death and resurrection. This was God's plan, not what people,
especially the Jews of the time, expected. They wanted their Messiah
to defeat the Romans and establish a prosperous, earthly kingdom.
James, John and, indeed all the disciples, didn't understand how
God's kingdom, his rule, would be established through and in Jesus.
kingdom would not be brought about by inflicting death upon the
enemy. God's enemy would be defeated by the death of his own son.
Jesus was wholeheartedly committed to following the rescue plan for
everyone that God the Father had devised before time began. God's
kingdom would be brought about and be typified by service, starting
with Jesus and continuing with his followers. 43
Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you
must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be 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."
you think of the word great you may think of an Olympic gold
medalist, someone considered a star in the entertainment world, an
outstanding footballer. Thinking about this, I imagine any
aspirations we might have had of ever being great have gone.
However, do not despair. Do not give up. You can be great in the eyes
of God and, in the long term, that is all that matters. You
are precious to God. 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.
Substitute your name for "many". 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 John Smith"
we are all so precious to God and he has accepted us through Jesus we
do not need to gain value or acceptance through any other means. We
do not need to follow the way of James and John and be ambitious. We
do not have to compromise our beliefs because what should most
important is our relationship with God. Not what other people think
of us. Not how much money or possessions we have. Not how much power
or authority we have. Not how moral we think we are. Not our
families. Not how happy we are. Not how many friends we think we
have. Not what we think we look like. All of these things, and
others, can be idols. Things that take the place that God should
have, of being number one in our lives.
idol does not have to be bad, in itself. They only become bad when
they take the place of God.
history of God's people is littered with idolatry. It features again
and again in the Old Testament. It is something we need to be
conscious of as Christians. Our home group considered this last
Thursday as part of the "Gospel in Life, Grace changes
everything" Course by Timothy Keller. He said, "at
the root of all sin is a failure to take the gospel deep into the
furthest reaches of your heart.Our
ongoing disobedience, our failure to change, our lack of spiritual
growth is always rooted in our unwillingness and our inability to
believe and rejoice in our righteousness in Christ.
outlined that the
antidote to idolatry is
to put to death the old, sinful way of life and then to look to
Jesus. Rejoicing in what we have in Him, in what we are with Him,
and what we are going to become in Him. This should be supported by
private and corporate prayer, worship, and Bible study. The goal is
for Jesus Christ to become the most important thing in our lives. As
we reflect on who He is and all He has done for each one of us this
should determine how we behave. So we are not like James and John,
in it for what we can get out of it. We should be like Jesus,
sacrificially in it for what others can get. 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."
I would like you to put yourself into the position of three people in today's gospel. First James or John
of James and John. Impetuous. On their way to Jerusalem where Jesus was
going to show the world he was the Messiah. Expected him to defeat
Roman forces, establish prosperous earthly kingdom like his ancestor
and John, with Peter were the inner circle of the disciples. They would
be taken off to be with Jesus and witnessed miraculous events, such as
the Transfiguration. They wanted Jesus to make sure they would get the
best leadership positions in this earthly kingdom.
you don't ask you don't get". They were, like many people before
and since, ambitious. We may sympathise, even identify with them
wanting to get on.
Now put yourself in the position of one of the disciples, say, Peter.
may sympathise with the other disciples, especially Peter, who felt
betrayed by these avaricious brothers. Jesus had just told them that,
because of their devotion to him they would be rewarded, verse 29f.
But these two brothers wanted more than the rest!
Think of how hurt and betrayed they felt. Perhaps jealous that they had not thought to ask first!!
way of James and John, even the disciples, was to look to receive
earthly rewards. Even if it meant doing it at the expense of
others, even others they were close to. This is something we
observe with the human race. Many people are selfish.
of being Jesus in this situation. He must have been frustrated by
his disciples! In verses 32-34, on their way to Jerusalem,
Jesus had told the disciples he would be betrayed, killed by the
religious leaders and rise from the dead. The disciples had not
understood what Jesus was telling them. That his kingdom
was not of this world. That is would be brought in through his own
death, not killing others. That his death would bring life to people of
every nation for many years, not the short term deliverance of a small
nation for a few years.
way was selfless. He turns the values of the world upside down
and says that greatness is not about using power to dominate others, it
is about becoming weak to serve them.
is the greatest example of this ever, 45 For even the Son of Man did
not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom
Jesus expects his followers copy him and be selfless. 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
will involve persecutions Mk. 10:29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus
replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or
father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to
receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers,
sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and
in the age to come, eternal life.
was executed by Herod Agrippa I about A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2), and was the
first of the Twelve whose martyrdom was referred to in the NT.
Drinking the cup is a Jewish expression that meant to share
someone's fate. James, like many of the disciples, shared persecution
and death with Jesus.
What is the message for us today?
are called to live differently to those around us. To follow the
example and teaching of Jesus. To look beyond our own interests
and serve like a slave obeying his/her master without question.
To see that right leadership is not necessarily about getting
what we want from someone or them having the qualities we demand. This
won't be easy. But Jesus promises us fellow believers on the
journey and eternal life now and forever. We have a resurrection
faith. Jesus has died and has risen. He calls his follower to die to
themselves and to live for God by being slaves to him, which involves
'I tell you what I want, what I really, really
want.' is the opening line of the Spice Girls first hit. Perhaps it
reflects the age in which we live. Yet at least one of the Spice Girls
has been in the news because she was depressed, feeling it difficult
to cope with the pressures of a world she aspired to.
People, and God, have not changed over thousands
of years. In today's gospel we have two brothers James and John telling
Jesus what they really, really want.
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do
for us whatever we ask." 36 "What do you want me to do for
you?" he asked.
I recently had a conversation with a mother
who was trying to get her son into the top Secondary school that she
could. Like any loving parent she wanted the best for her child. In
Matthew 20:20ff James and John's mother is mentioned in bringing their
request to Jesus. James and John, together with Peter, were the 'inner
circle' of the disciples, those who were being groomed by Jesus. Perhaps
she was trying to push her sons forward so they could get the best positions
when Jesus came to power.
Like the episode in Chapter 9:33-37, when the
disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest, we have here
a prediction by Jesus of his suffering, death and resurrection. This
is then followed by ambitious disciples vying for position, and Jesus
showing them what true greatness is about. In Chapter 9 he uses a child
as an example of greatness. Here he uses himself, the Suffering Servant
as an example.
Part of discipleship involves learning that
Jesus may not give us what we really, really want. Often because it
is not good for us, it may not be what we really need, or it may hurt
others. We need to beware that we do not fall into the tap that the
disciples did, seeking worldly things, such as power, influence, status,
possessions or riches. 37 They replied, "Let one of us sit
at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
As well as being spiritually undiscerning, this
showed that the disciples still did not grasp what Jesus was telling
them about. They may have been following the popular thought that the
Messiah was going to overthrow the Romans and establish an independent,
prosperous kingdom. James and John wanted to sit either side of Jesus.
This represented positions of prestige and power. The one on the right
was the second in command, the one on the left the third.
Their question revealed they had ; wrong motives,
selfish ambition; and wrong expectations of what the Messiah would be,
Jesus uses this request to gently redirect his
disciples back to His suffering and death that he has just told them
about in verses 32-34. He shows them that following him is not about
grabbing power, but relinquishing it through suffering and death
38 "You don't know what you are asking,"
Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with
the baptism I am baptized with?"39 "We can," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized
with the baptism I am baptized with,anddrink the cup I drink. Drinking the cup refers to a Jewish expression
that meant to share someone's fate. In the OT the cup of wine was a
common metaphor for God's wrath against human sin and rebellion ( Isa
51:17). Therefore, the cup Jesus had to drink refers to God's punishment
of sins that Jesus bore in place of sinful mankind.
This is not to be directly linked with the suffering
and death that both James and John would later suffer. Unlike Jesus
they couldn't suffer and die for anyone's sins because they were not
sinless. Jesus meant that they would endure tribulation and suffering
for their faith. In Acts 12:2 it records that Herod Agrippa had James
put to death with the sword during the persecution of the early church.
be baptized with the baptism I am baptized
The image of baptism is parallel
to that of the cup, referring to his suffering and death as a baptism
(see Lk 12:50; cf. Ro 6:3-4 for the figure).
40 but to sit at my right or left is not
for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been
prepared." This shows that everything
is all part of God the Father's preordained plan. Jesus would not usurp
his Father's authority by agreeing to the brothers' request.
41 When the ten heard about this, they became
indignant with James and John.
The other disciples could have been indignant
because they desired the positions of prestige and power for themselves.
Perhaps they were jealous that they had not thought to ask this themselves.
This shows their own insensitivity. They were only concerned with their
own interests, even though Jesus had just told them he was going to
suffer and die. Perhaps this shows how Jesus must have felt alone as
he approached Jerusalem. He knew what he was going to face, yet his
disciples were too busy thinking of themselves. Something we see in
Jesus' betrayal by Judas. 42 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. 43 Not
so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be
your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
Jesus overturns the value structure of the world.
A master is characterized by power, ordering others about for his own
benefit with little or no care for them. A servant, a word that was
also used for child, is characterized by weakness, having no status
or rights, being concerned about meeting someone else's needs.
True greatness is to be found in a humble acceptance
of God's grace, like a child accepting a parent's care and provision
for it. The life of discipleship is to be characterized by humble and
loving service. James's and John's desire for position and power would
be realized only if they willingly submitted to servanthood.
"To be ambitious of true honour and of
the real glory and perfection of our nature is the very principle and
incentive of virtue; but to be ambitious of titles, place, ceremonial
respects, and civil pageantry, is as vain and little as the things are
which we seek." Philip Sidney 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."
A key verse in Mark's Gospel. Jesus came to
this world as a servant, indeed the Servant who would suffer and die
for our redemption, as Isaiah clearly predicted .
"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar
with suffering. "
Chapters 49-55 of Isaiah tell of a "suffering
servant" who will come from Israel to bring light to all nations.
Who is this suffering servant?
Jewish scholars puzzled over these passages
for centuries. Isaiah presents the servant as the deliverer of all humankind.
And yet it portrays him more as a tragic figure than as a hero: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to
him. . . . He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter"
(53:2,7). Some Jewish scholars guessed the prophet was describing himself
or another prophet, such as Jeremiah. Still others focused their hopes
on a Messiah to come. They expected a king from very humble origins,
whose power would depend not on swords, but on the spirits of people
committed to him. The idea of the suffering servant did not really catch
on among the Jewish nation. They longed for a victorious Messiah, not
a suffering one. The image of the suffering servant was forgotten, lying
dormant for centuries.
Then, in a very dramatic scene early in his
ministry, Jesus quoted from one of the servant passages in Isaiah (Luke
4:18-21). "The Spirit of the Lord
is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good
news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to
proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began
by saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing"'
Isaiah 49-55 includes vivid scenes of the servant's
sufferings, predictions that found their fulfillment in Jesus' death
on the cross. Written like an eyewitness account, they were actually
composed over 600 years before Christ's death.
Following Jesus' example, the New Testament
writers named him as the servant, at least ten times. In one instance,
Philip corrected an Ethiopian official who had wondered if the suffering
servant referred to an ancient prophet (Acts 8:26-35).
According to Isaiah, the servant died for a
very specific purpose: "He was pierced for our transgressions"
(53:5). In the OT, the shed blood of sacrificial offerings brought forgiveness
of sins. This was an act of grace in which God accepts an offering as
a substitute for the punishment for sin. The blood shed in the sacrifices
was sacred. It symbolized the life of the sacrificial victim. The blood
of the OT sacrifice pointed forward to the blood of the Lamb of God,
who obtained for his people "eternal redemption" (Heb 9:12).
"Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb
Through his sacrifice, the suffering servant
won a great victory. His death made possible a future when all that
is wrong on earth will be set right. Significantly, the book of Isaiah
does not end with the suffering servant image. It goes on to describe
a wonderful life in a new heaven and new earth made possible by the
servant's death. Son of Man,
45. Jesus' most common title for himself, used 81 times in the Gospels
and never used by anyone but Jesus. In Daniel 7:13-14 the Son of Man
is pictured as a heavenly figure who in the end times is entrusted by
God with authority, glory and sovereign power.
As God and man Jesus was entitled to receive
glory, honour, praise and worship when he came to earth. He deserved
to be born in a clean, luxurious palace, attended by experts in childbirth,
his every whim catered for. Yet he was born in a dirty stable, perhaps
with Mary tended by Joseph's relatives. He lived amongst normal people
who were regarded as 'sinners', not the powerful, the intellectuals,
the religious or the wealthy. He lived in the unfashionable North, not
in the Southern capital of Jerusalem, the centre of the Jewish faith.
He was entitled to be exalted over everyone,
instead he was raised above a crowd of people, many of them jeering,
on an instrument of pain and humiliation.
We see his servant heart in the account of the
washing of the disciples' feet in John 13. Washing the feet of people
who had come from dung-covered roads was an unpleasant task given to
the most junior slave, yet Jesus did this, and said this was an example
of how his disciples should serve one another. ransom.
is a word used in the market place. It means "the price paid for
release from bondage", and was often used for the price paid to
set a slave free. Jesus gave his life to release us from bondage to
sin and death. He frees us from the guilt and separation from God that
our sin brings. He frees us to follow his way, convinced that this is
in our best interests. for.
is, "in place of," pointing to Christ's substitutionary death.
"gave himself as a ransom for all men" (1 Timothy 2:6). Salvation
is offered to "all," but everyone will not accept it. Only
the "many" (i.e., the elect) receive it. The many contrasts
with the one life that was given for them.
A book titled "Battle Fatigue", Joe
B. Brown, pastor of an American church, warns readers of five things
that may hinder a Christian's access to God:
1) ambition to achieve fame, success or glory
-- no matter what the cost to one's spiritual life: "It involves
replacing God with your own ego and self-will."
2) unholy desires: "Ask yourself this question,
'What is it that I want that God doesn't want for me?"
3) memories of the past: "Is there anything
in your life that you cannot let go of? Does your mind carry you back
to an event and hold you captive there day after day? If you spend too
much time and energy there, it can become a false god."
4) unhealthy relationships: "There are
people in our lives who try to draw us away from our power source, directing
us toward a path that leads away from God, not toward him. Be careful
not to let unhealthy relationships become a false god."
5) business activities and recreational endeavours:
"It has well been said, 'We worship our work, we work at our play
and we play at our worship.' If we expend more energy making a living
and entertaining ourselves than building a relationship with God, we
have created a False god in our lives."
Let us thank God for sending Jesus to die in
our place on the cross.
Let us seek to follow his example and show greatness
by serving others.
The Price is paid
For God so loved the world
Seek ye first