Mark 10:35-45 – On the road to Jerusalem
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’
‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked.
They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’
‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?’
‘We can,’ they answered.
Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with, 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.’
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 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. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
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.’
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So picture the scene. Jesus and his disciples are steadily making their way towards Jerusalem. He’s been hinting that something significant is going to happen there although the disciples don’t really seem to understand what. They take a break, perhaps finding some shade under the trees by the road, and James and John, sensing their opportunity, corner Jesus and ask the question that’s been on their lips for so long.
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” replies Jesus.
“Let us sit by your side in your glory.”
The allure of power rears its ugly head yet again. It is a temptation Jesus knows all too well, one which he has fought against for his whole ministry. And now his friends, his closest friends, have fallen into that trap.
“You think you can drink my cup and share my baptism? Then you shall. But the seats at my right and my left are not mine to assign.”
Courage. Bravery. Suffering.
In the upside-down kingdom of God even these do not lead to glory.
The other disciples realise what Jesus is talking about.
How dare James and John corner Jesus like that.
How dare they ask that question.
How dare they ask it first anyway.
So Jesus tries to get them to understand.
“You know how the Gentile rulers lord it over them? You know how their great ones are really tyrants? It is not so among you.”
And there it is, The Kingdom of God. “It is not so among you”.
Jesus carries on,
“Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came, not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
But these weren’t just words for Jesus, he lived this out.
This kind of service sits and eats and laughs and cries with the outcasts of society.
This kind of service lays hands on the leper and washes the disciples’ dusty feet.
This kind of service feeds the hungry crowds and welcomes the embrace of a child.
This kind of service receives the jeers and the torture and the betrayal and the worst that humanity could throw at him and still laid down his life as a ransom for many.