JANUARY 17, 2016

MAIN TEXT: MARK 10:32-45

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they willmock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “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?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 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?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized,but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 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. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

There are numerous reasons why Jesus came to die. John Piper wrote a book called Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. There are three that are particularly relevant to today’s text:

  • To become a ransom for many
  • To call us to follow His example of lowliness and costly love
  • To ransom people from every tribe and language and people and nation

Our text is near the end of what is known as the “Great Discipleship Discourse” (Mark 8:31-10:52). In each chapter there is:

  • A prediction of Jesus’ passion (suffering)
  • A foolish response by the disciples
  • And a lesson on discipleship, service, and true spiritual greatness

Jesus’ climax instruction on spiritual greatness is the key verse of Mark’s Gospel, Mark 10:45. This is the ultimate reason Jesus came. This gets to the heart of the gospel and a pattern for all who would follow Christ.  Jesus came to die and serve and He calls His followers to die and serve as well. We die and serve in grateful response to Jesus. The gospel calls us to be servants just like the Savior. 

Although Isaiah 52-53 describes the sufferings of the Christ in great detail, the Jews did not associate the Suffering Servant passages with their hope of the coming Messiah. In our story today, Jesus, for a third time, set before His disciples the specifics about what would face Him (verse 33-34). 

Craving power and position

Immediately after Jesus delivers this sobering and soon coming reality of His suffering and death, two of His most trusted disciples (James and John) came to Him requesting the glory of high positions in the kingdom (verses 35-37). The request sounds more like a demand. They wanted the top two highest rungs of authority and power in the kingdom. They wanted status. They wanted eternal positions of power. 

Jesus responded (verse 38). Jesus knew that James and John did not understand what they were requesting. So, He asked them a question to draw out their faulty ideas. He uses two metaphors that refer to His upcoming experience. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” Jesus thought of His passion (suffering) as a cup. At Gethsemane, Jesus – in agony - would ask the Father, “Remove this cup from me” (Mark 14:36). His disciples did not understand this at this point. Secondly, He asked them, “Are you able…to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Jesus was not talking about the baptism of John that He underwent in the River Jordan. Instead, He was talking about being flooded in the fury of God’s wrath and being inundated by the Father’s judgment. He is telling them that there is no glory without the cross. 

The disciples reply is stunningly ignorant, “We are able” (verse 39). They thought that they were strong. They thought that they were committed to Jesus. They didn’t know that they would abandon Him at the first sign of trouble and leave Him to drink the cup and undergo the baptism utterly alone. 

Jesus gives them a hint that they would go through a great deal of suffering (verse 39). Although it would be great suffering, they would not have to endure the Father turning His face away. For us, we are to identify with that cup and that baptism. Our water baptism (a sign of the new covenant) signifies that we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 8:16-18). 

The positions of glory that James and John were requesting were not for Jesus to grant. It is the Father choice and it was already decided (verse 40).  

Verse 41 tells us that the other disciples were indignant about the request of James and John. We know from Mark 9:33-34 that they had all debated among themselves about who would be the greatest. It seems that the unity of Jesus’ band of disciples was strained. 

Greatness by servanthood

Jesus used this occasion to teach them a lesson that we all need to learn (verses 42-45). Jesus cites the example of secular authorities that misuse their power. They had no sense of responsibility and willingness to serve. Jesus left no doubt that this leadership style is to be unknown among those that claim to follow Him. 

What is the leadership approach that is to be practiced among His followers? Verses 43-44 lay out an approach that is a direct opposite of what we all desire – serving and being a slave of all. We would rather be served rather than to serve. Jesus declares that if we want to be great and significant in His kingdom than we must be small. This is the ethic of Jesus. His followers must be marked as serving one another and others. 

This lesson is no small one. Jesus ties this point to the ultimate reason that He came (verse 45). This reveals why Jesus said what He said, did what He did – to serve – to give His life on a cruel cross as a ransom for many. 

By doing this, Jesus crushed Satan’s head. The ransom was paid to the Father to satisfy the demand of God’s justice. He purchased our freedom from the wrath of God. This is why Paul declares, “You were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 7:23). Now, we who were hopelessly in debt to God are not required to pay. The debt has been paid for us by the Suffering Servant. 


You have been sent to serve! 




This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.


This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.

Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.

Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.

Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.

Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.

Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.


Read: Mark 10:32-45

How would you answer someone who asked you, “Why did Jesus have to die?” Can you give three reasons?

How is it comforting to know that God has a plan for your life? Does the plan guarantee freedom from suffering? What is the comfort and encouragement in this?

How are a “servant” and a “slave” the same? How are they different? Which best describes various aspects of theChristian life?