Let's remember that all that is happening in this portion of Mark is designed to teach the disciples and prepare them for their future mission to the church. Jesus had just had a discussion with a rich young ruler about eternal life and discipleship. Then His disciples basically asked Him: We have left everything and followed you, what's in it for us? As we'll see in our text this morning, their thoughts were constantly on themselves. They have been with Jesus for three years, and it seems that all they can think about is themselves. As Jesus talks about His death, they talk about position and power in the kingdom.
Mark 10:32 (NASB) And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him,
As they walked along the dusty road towards Jerusalem, something about Jesus' demeanor and His determination to press on urgently to Jerusalem amazed the disciples. Mark indicates that this is a very tense atmosphere as they are going along the road. He tells us Jesus went first, all alone, with no one accompanying Him. Behind Him came the band of twelve disciples, who, Mark says, were astonished, amazed. Behind them came the crowd, the multitude which was following. And they were afraid, Mark says all of which indicates that there was a strange sense of impending doom, a sense of approaching crisis. Notice how Luke puts it:
Luke 9:51 (NASB) And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem;
Jesus' face was set on Jerusalem and His death. How do you feel when you are expecting surgery or a serious dentist visit? Can you imagine if you knew that you were going to be crucified? What made this crowd afraid and the disciples amazed, unquestionably, was the attitude of Jesus.
What we have in verses 33 and 34 is Jesus revealing to His disciples the details concerning His crucifixion, for the third time:
Mark 10:33-34 (NASB) saying, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him to the Gentiles. 34 "And they will mock Him and spit upon Him, and scourge Him, and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again."
This passion prediction is the most detailed of the three. Jesus mentions for the first time that Jerusalem is His destination. He also adds that He will be turned over to the Gentiles (implying that His death will be by crucifixion--a prominent Roman form of execution), and that He will be mocked, spit upon, and flogged severely.
"Delivered to the chief priests and the scribes"; God would hand Him over to those who were supposed to be His representatives. These represented the two main religious authorities of Judaism; the chief priests, who controlled the Temple and its worship; and the scribes, who were looked to for teaching and guidance by the people.
For the priests and scribes, the leaders in Judaism, to mistreat God's prophets was nothing new. Their mistreatment of Jesus was very similar to what the leaders of Israel did to God's prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 2:8 (NASB) "The priests did not say, 'Where is the LORD?' And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me, And the prophets prophesied by Baal And walked after things that did not profit.
He too was rejected by those who handled the Law.
Jeremiah 20:1-2 (NASB) When Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, 2 Pashhur had Jeremiah the prophet beaten, and put him in the stocks that were at the upper Benjamin Gate, which was by the house of the LORD.
Jeremiah was smitten by the priest, who was the chief officer in the house of the Lord.
Jeremiah 26:7-8 (NASB) And the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. 8 And when Jeremiah finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, "You must die!
The priests and the prophets sought his death.
Jeremiah 26:11 (NASB) Then the priests and the prophets spoke to the officials and to all the people, saying, "A death sentence for this man! For he has prophesied against this city as you have heard in your hearing."
Jeremiah would be especially significant to Jesus as he too prophesied the destruction of the Temple, calling it a "den of robbers" (Jeremiah 7:11). So it would be nothing new for the religious leaders of Israel to condemn a prophet of God.
This rejection by the Jewish leaders is further based on the pattern of such Scriptures as Zechariah 11 where the true shepherd, who had fed the flock, was rejected by the false shepherds of Judah and Israel and was dismissed for thirty pieces of silver, the value of a slave, which he cast to the potter in the house of the Lord as a sign that it was insufficient and rejected.
So Jesus was to be delivered into the tender mercies of the Jewish religion as a whole, as the prophets had been before Him, and could only expect the same treatment. As happens in all religions, and as would happen in part with Christianity, apart from a remnant, it had gradually built up traditions and dogmas which had stifled the truth at its heart as represented by its Scriptures and could not bear opposition from anyone who would not bow down to their traditions and dogmas.
"And will deliver Him to the Gentiles." This was a sign of His total rejection as a religious figure. To be handed over to the Gentiles meant that He was seen as unclean and having no part in Judaism.
"And they will mock Him and spit upon Him, and scourge Him." This was the fate of the Servant of Isaiah:
Isaiah 50:6 (NASB) I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
"And will kill him" again has in mind Isaiah 53, these words express the expected fate of the Servant of the Lord:
Isaiah 53:7 (NASB) He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
How did Jesus know that all this was going to happen to Him? Was He getting divine revelation? No, He learned it from the Scriptures. It is clear from these words that Jesus was steeped in the Scriptures and had seen in Jeremiah and in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah a picture of His own coming suffering. Every one of these events is predicted in the prophets. In fact, Luke tells us that at this very point Jesus said to His disciples,
Luke 18:31 (NASB) And He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.
Jesus, of course, knew these passages well. Our Lord was not given some special insight; He learned it by studying; so did the scribes and other religious leaders. But Jesus not only knew them intellectually, He understood them. And from them He interpreted their meaning for the moment with great insight.
"Three days later He will rise again." Death would not be the end. He would be vindicated by resurrection. This He repeated each time He spoke of His death. It echoed the words of Hosea:
Hosea 6:1-2 (NASB) "Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. 2 "He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day That we may live before Him.
Jesus' own words at the beginning of His ministry had hinted at the idea when speaking of the Temple:
John 2:19 (NASB) Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
Jesus' very clear statements about His up-coming rejection, persecution, and execution were not understood at all by the disciples. The amazing thing for me is that even with such a specific prophecy, the disciples had no idea what Jesus was talking about. The reason for their lack of understanding is given in Luke's account:
Luke 18:34 (NASB) And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.
God withheld this understanding from the disciples; they were not ready for it. They would only understand Jesus' rejection, crucifixion, and death after His resurrection.
Mark 10:35-36 (NASB) And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him, saying to Him, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You." 36 And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
Matthew tells us that it was the mother of James and John who asked this of Jesus, suggesting that they had talked her into making this presentation. But Mark goes back of the mother to the two disciples, to show us that it was their idea.
After the first prediction, Peter rebuked Jesus and was rebuked in return. After the second, the disciples discussed along the way who was the greatest, and Jesus had to instruct them that whoever wishes to be first must be last of all and servant of all. Here, after the third, James and John approach Jesus requesting to partake of His coming glory:
Mark 10:37 (NASB) And they said to Him, "Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left."
Where on earth did this come from? I think it actually came from the words of Jesus, which are not recorded in Mark:
Matthew 19:28 (NASB) And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
These words appealed more to the thinking of the disciples than the talk of death. The idea of "thrones" intrigued them, so they wanted to make sure that they had the best seats in the kingdom. The right and left hand position beside any king in antiquity was a place of unequaled importance and supremacy for, not only could they hear everything which was said by the sovereign, but they had immediate and direct access into His presence and would be able to petition him for those things which they felt important. And James and John, as part of the "Inner Three," came to Jesus to seek to get these positions and supplant Peter.
Seeking glory and power has followed the history of the church; revered bishoprics, papal thrones, ornate miters, and monuments to power litter the pages of church history. The ambitious Pope Leo X sold indulgences to lay the foundation for his lasting monument of St. Peters, even though he knew nothing of the gospel. King James I (of King James Bible fame) sought to use the Episcopal form of church government to secure his own position, in spite of the objections of Puritans and other non-conformists.
Our own generation flaunts just as much ambition. Churches desiring to wear the title of "World's Largest Sunday School" have resorted to all sorts of gimmicks and numerical slight of hand to receive men's accolades. A couple of decades back, a Southern Baptist Church determined to lead the denomination in baptism totals, so they would go the local bus station, get a group of "converts," carry them to the church for a midnight baptism, and then cart them back to the bus station to be on their way.
Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die; the disciples' response conveys that they still think Jesus is going to Jerusalem to reign. This self-seeking is deliberately set against the previous words to bring out its enormity, but we don't need to assume that it immediately followed it.
Mark 10:38 (NASB) But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"
Jesus used the metaphor "cup" to picture the impending wrath of God that He would completely satisfy at the cross. The cup was the cup of suffering and the cup of God's wrath regularly mentioned in the Scriptures:
Psalms 75:8 (NASB) For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams; It is well mixed, and He pours out of this; Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.
Jerusalem had drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury:
Isaiah 51:17 (NASB) Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk from the LORD'S hand the cup of His anger; The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs.
Jesus used the "cup" to express the agony of the cross, when the Father would turn against His Son, on behalf of sinners, as Christ absorbed every blow of divine judgment.
Matthew 26:39 (NASB) And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
And during His arrest in the Garden, He told Peter:
John 18:11 (NASB) Jesus therefore said to Peter, "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?"
Without the suffering of the cross, "the cup," there would be no kingdom for us but the kingdom of darkness. That's why Paul could glory in the cross of Christ by declaring:
Colossians 1:13-14 (NASB) For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
"Or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"? Jesus was here thinking of being overwhelmed with suffering:
Luke 12:50 (NASB) "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!
The word "baptizo" was used by the Greeks of overwhelming calamities. In Isaiah 21:4 LXX renders the Hebrew, "horror has frightened me," in the Greek as, "lawlessness has baptized me," with the same idea of being overwhelmed. Aquila, also in his Greek translation of the Old Testament, translates Psalm 69:2, "the floods overflow me," by using baptizo. The idea of such overwhelming appears regularly in the Scripture. So Jesus was thinking of being overwhelmed by suffering, including, in the light of the cup, the horror of the wrath of God, which He would bear for us (verse 45).
Mark 10:39-40 (NASB) And they said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 "But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."
"We are able." this shows how clueless they were. The king's cup was drunk by his favorites. Perhaps they naively thought in terms of the King's cup and social graces, or perhaps they acknowledged that although there may be dangers ahead when Jesus as Messiah finally sought to establish His rule, they would be well able to face the opposition bravely, and, if necessary, die nobly for the cause. But what they had no idea of was the humiliation, the suffering, the degradation, even the slow martyrdom by exquisite torture of which He was speaking.
"The cup that I drink you shall drink,"Jesus assured them; not the cup of the wine of the wrath of God, for that was for Jesus only, but the cup of suffering. Both would drink it. They would not necessarily suffer the agonies of crucifixion, and certainly they would not die with the weight of sin on their shoulders, but in one way or another they would find themselves "partakers of Christ's sufferings" (1 Peter 4.13); at times overwhelmed by persecution, hatred, imprisonment and even possibly, but not necessarily, martyrdom. James would be dead fairly early on, having triumphed in the name of Christ, when he was executed by the sword under Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:2). Of John there are conflicting accounts. One refers to his martyrdom, others to his working in the mines on Patmos (see Revelation 1.9) and dying in Ephesus an old man. The far stronger evidence says that John died in old age in Ephesus. Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus (190 AD), said that John "who reclined on the Lord's breast," after being "a witness (martus) and a teacher," "fell asleep at Ephesus." Irenaeus, who knew Polycarp, used to tell him what he had heard from John's lips and from the lips of the other disciples.
"But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." The verb "prepared" is a perfect passive and indicates that from eternity past, as part of the divine decrees, the Father has set the appointed order of heaven. The "prime positions" in heaven were already allotted in the foreknowledge of God. It was not, therefore, possible for them to be changed. They would go to those chosen from the beginning, for whom they had been prepared.
Mark 10:41 (NASB) And hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.
The word indignant is aganakteo, which means: "to be greatly grieved, violently irritated." It was also used for fermenting wine, so the idea is one of an indignation that ferments, or builds.
What caused them to be indignant? It's a one word answer pride! The grumbling of the other ten disciples at the request of James and John surely implies that they have shared the same hopes of authority and privilege as have the sons of Zebedee.
Proverbs 13:10 (NASB) Through presumption comes nothing but strife, But with those who receive counsel is wisdom.
The word "presumption" is the Hebrew zadown, which means: "pride."
Mark 10:42 (NASB) And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.
Jesus illustrated His point from Gentile rulers; the Jews had experienced a number of them. And one thing was common to all; they lorded it over their people. They were proud of their authority and very conscious of it, and they exerted it to the full. They were the masters, and they wanted everyone to know it.
This is biting irony. This is exposing the hypocrisy of the disciples. Because in the disciples' desire for position, rank, and precedence so that they might exercise authority over other people, they are no different than the Roman rulers they so despise.
And I suspect their hypocrisy and their struggle is ours also. In our workplace, in our neighborhood, and even in our church, we desire a place of rank or precedence that we might exercise our authority or influence for our own benefit--that we might exercise those things in our own interest.
Mark 10:43-44 (NASB) "But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.
"It is not so among you." As followers of Christ, as those redeemed through Christ's blood, as those who now live for the glory of Christ, it is not this way. The phrase "among you" implies all disciples, every congregation of believers. Jesus Christ insists on a distinct contrast between kingdom citizens and the world.
"Be your servant." The idea is of personal service rendered to others. The word for servant is diakonos. This verse incidentally describes the duties and responsibilities of a deacon; humble service to others.
"Slave of all." The Greek word used here is doulos. Some translate this "servant," which is not a very good translation. A servant is one who can quit. "Slave" better fits the picture here. Doulos conveys the idea of: "ownership, possession, dependency, subjection, loyalty." It also conveys the idea of: "willing service," not a forced service. They are slaves, but they are slaves by choice. They have willingly made themselves slaves of Jesus Christ to do His will.
The disciple's prime concern, said Jesus, is to serve, yes even to be a bondservant. That is the test of greatness among Christians; They do not look for praise, They do not seek honor, They do not desire position. They gladly take the lowest task if it will help someone. They just want to be useful in God's service, and as long as God is satisfied, they are satisfied. That is true greatness.
The Apostle John, who requested this privileged position beside Jesus, would later understand servant-hood. He who penned John 3:16 also penned:
1 John 3:16 (NASB) We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
The call in Jesus' kingdom is to be a slave or servant. And in the context of what we've been talking about, it is important to recognize a slave or a servant does not direct his activities towards his own interests. He directs his activities towards the interests of another.
Humility was no virtue in the ancient world. To be a slave meant that you were not a citizen and you did not have the rights of citizenship. You were not free. You belonged to another. You could not pursue your own ambitions but were left to the desires of someone else. Someone has said, "You will know whether a person is a servant or not by the way they act when they are treated like one."
The church has always opposed the papacy the idea of a human head over the entire church. Unfortunately, among Protestant and Evangelical churches, what we have done is to reject the idea of one Pope over all the churches, but have placed one Pope in every church. Surely that is just as bad, or worse. Those who want to be great in Christ's kingdom must become the servant of all.
Now, after talking about servanthood, Mark gives us the supreme example of servanthood, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Mark 10:45 (NASB) "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
I think you would agree with me that as the Creator of the world, Jesus is in the supreme position of authority. But when He came to His creation, He did not come expecting to be served; He came to serve. How? By dying on the cross for you and for me--paying our ransom that we would not be separated from God, but that we could have a relationship with our Creator.
He, who should have been served by all, had made Himself the servant of all. Paul echoes these words of Mark as he calls his readers and all Christians to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who deliberately humbled Himself:
Philippians 2:5-8 (NASB) Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
"To give His life a ransom for many." Ransom is the Greek word lutron. The word is used only here and the parallel passage (Matthew 20.28), in the New Testament.
Lutron was not a religious word in the Greek society of the New Testament but a normal, everyday word used to denote the buying back of a war captive, as well as many other concepts. When an army was victorious over their enemy, they would take as many prisoners as possible for slaves, some of which would fetch a good price back in their own land.
In the LXX lutron was used of the price a man paid to redeem his life, which was forfeit because his ox had gored someone to death (Exodus 21:30); the price paid for the redemption of the firstborn (Numbers 18:15); the price paid by which the next of kin obtained the release of an enslaved relative (Leviticus 25:51-53); or the price paid for the redemption of a mortgaged property (Leviticus 25:26). It was a payment made to obtain release and freedom; paid in substitution for what was obtained.
The ransom price is his life. This is why the Bible says again and again that Christ died to save us. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). We were "justified by His blood" (Romans 5:9). "We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Romans 5:10). "He bore our sins in His body on the cross" (1 Peter 2:24). "Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18).
We must understand that this act of giving His life as a ransom was intentional. It says He came to do it. Christ did not come to earth for other reasons and then get caught up in a plot that resulted in His death. He came to die.
"A ransom for many." "many" takes us back to:
Isaiah 53:11-12 (NASB) As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.
It reminds us of the purpose of the Servant, to be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5); to make Himself an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10) so that "many" may be declared righteous, and so that He may bear the sin of "many."
In Qumran documents and in some Rabbinic writings, the phrase "the many" is taken to refer to the community of believers rather than as a general term meaning many people.
Jesus was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 personified. That chapter is the best commentary possible on this verse. One who was totally self-giving for the sake of others.
True greatness is not found in how many people recognize our face or name, or how much praise we receive from men, or how important we appear to others. In the grand scheme, those things hold no value. True greatness is found in humble service, and humble service is rooted in a Christ-centered life.
The letters of Paul amply demonstrate this principle when he writes:
2 Corinthians 4:5 (NASB) For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.
Paul was able to say personally of himself :
2 Corinthians 12:15 (NASB) And I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you the more, am I to be loved the less?
God calls His children to discipleship, and discipleship is a call to servanthood:
Galatians 5:13 (NASB) For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
In the original Greek, Paul is even more specific. He says, "Through the love, serve one another." What love? Specifically, the love of Jesus Christ.
Paul uses another interesting little word. It is even more interesting when we consider that the entire message of Galatians is about freedom. The word that I am referring to is the word "serve," which is from the Greek word douleuo. The word means:"to be a slave, to serve, or to do service." The word is often used of nations that are in subjection to other nations.
I believe with all of my heart that we can gauge how we are growing in our walk with the Lord by our willingness to serve those around us who can give nothing in return; those who have hurt us in the past, and those who we think are undeserving of our time and energy. This is beyond our ability. This type of love and sacrifice does not come naturally. When someone hurts us, says bad things about us, or breaks our hearts, our automatic reaction is to strike back. When somebody is a taker, a user, and a manipulator, our automatic response is to run from them and never give them the time of day.
I want to ask you this morning, "Who are you serving in love?" Before you answer, let's take a look at our lives. Open your checkbook. Does it reflect the commitment you speak about to Christ? Do you lavish more and more upon yourselves, or are you allowing the Lord to use the resources He has given to you to bless others and to under gird what He is doing in this world?
Let's take a walk into our homes. Husbands, are you serving your wife? Do you spend time thinking of ways that you can bless your wife and lighten her load? Do you go out of your way to serve your kids, or do you see them as another burden on your schedule? Wives, how about taking a look at your relationship with your family. Do you begrudgingly do the things you do around the house for your family, or are you aware that by serving your husband and kids that you are serving the King of glory?
If you want to be great in God's kingdom, you must follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and be a slave to all. We should all be working on our serve?
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