Jesus’ Teaching in Mark 10

In Mark 10, James and John came to Jesus asking a favor of Him. In this passage we read:

 

James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying,

“Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 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. 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.” (Mark 10:35-40)

 

When James and John asked Jesus that one of them would sit at His right hand and the other at His left in His glory, they were in fact asking to have the places of highest honor in Heaven that any servant of Christ could have, being seated next to Jesus himself. Jesus answered them by saying that they did not know what they were asking. He then began to explain what is involved and what is required of those who will be considered great in the kingdom of God by putting this question to them: “Are you able to drink the

 

cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

 

The “cup” that Jesus drank, or the “baptism” with which He was baptized, are metaphors that Jesus used to symbolize the sufferings He would endure in order to fulfill His Father’s will and purpose for His life. When Jesus replied to the request of James and John, He was teaching them that those who would be great in the kingdom of Heaven must share in His sufferings in order to share in His eternal glory. Jesus’ teaching here in Mark 10:35-40 is consistent with teachings that we have considered in depth previously when we studied John 12:24-26 and Romans 8:17.

 

After Jesus asked James and John if they were able to drink from His cup, or be baptized with His baptism, they answered Him saying that they could. Even though at that time they did not understand what was involved and what was required of them for their request to be granted, they were willing. And even though Jesus knew they did not yet understand these things, still He granted their request for a place of glory and honor in Heaven when He replied to them: “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 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.” (Mark 10:39-40).

 

In addition to granting their request for a place of honor and glory in Heaven through their sharing in His sufferings, Jesus at the same time taught them that the places of highest honor in Heaven belong to those “for whom it has been prepared”. In other words, it is determined by the plan and purpose of our sovereign God who will occupy those places of highest honor.

 

A point to be made again is that even though Jesus told James and John that the places in Heaven at His right hand and His left were not for Him to grant, but for the Father, He did grant their request for a place of honor in the kingdom of God. The lesson here for all of us as believers is that when we bring such requests to God in prayer, it is the Spirit of God who motivates such prayers, and we should understand that our request for a place of honor in God’s kingdom will be answered and granted as He has ordained for each of us. We should also understand that in granting our request, we as well will be required to drink from the cup or be baptized with the baptism of the Jesus’ sufferings, as He taught us in this passage.

 

 

Mark 10 continues with Jesus contrasting those who are great in the world with those who will be great in the kingdom of God, as we read beginning in verse 42:

 

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. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for

many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

 

Greatness in the kingdom of God will be evaluated in a completely different way than greatness in the world. By the world’s standards, servants are numbered among the least, taking their orders from those who exercise authority over them. However in the kingdom of God, those who serve will be numbered among the greatest.

 

Paul taught in Philippians 2 that our attitude should be the same as the attitude Jesus had during His life on earth. He took the very nature of a servant, being obedient to God to the point of death, even the humiliating death of crucifixion where He was stripped, beaten and nailed to a cross all according to the will of God, in order to accomplish for His people what they could not accomplish for themselves: the forgiveness of their sins and salvation (Matthew 1:21).

 

Just as Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve others and “to give His life as a ransom for many”, and just as He took the form of a servant, humbling Himself and becoming obedient to the point of death, so we also as His followers are called upon to humble ourselves in submission and obedience to the word of God. And some of us will be called upon to do so even to the point of physical death. We will all have our share in the sufferings of Christ according to God’s plan and purpose for each of our lives individually.

 

When we strive to obey God throughout our lifetime regardless of what it may cost us, and regardless of what we may have to give up in temporal gratification in order to be obedient, then we also have humbled ourselves by being obedient to God’s word, as we deny ourselves or “die to”

 

(Luke 9:23) anything we may desire that would involve sin. Whatever hardship that God allows to touch our lives, and whatever temptation to violate the principles in the Bible that we may experience, when we remain obedient to His word, then we also have taken the very nature of a servant, putting His will above our own.

 

Just as Jesus came to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many, so we also, even if in some very small measure, will be called upon to give our lives as a “ransom” so to speak for others. For example, we may give up some of the financial resources that God has given to us so that someone else may benefit from our sacrifice. We may also be called upon to give up some of our time in an endeavor that benefits others, when we could have spent that time doing something to benefit ourselves.

 

Giving of ourselves to serve others, even in some very small measure when compared to Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, is for us a share in His sufferings and sacrifice, in that we too have given something of ourselves as a “ransom” for someone else so that they may benefit from our sacrifice.

Such sacrifices are a manifestation of the mercy and love that will always accompany a genuine faith in Christ.

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