Jesus Again Predicts His Death
32 They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him. 33 "Listen," he said, "we're going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. 34 They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again."
Jesus Teaches about Serving Others
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do us a favor."
36 "What is your request?" he asked.
37 They replied, "When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left."
38 But Jesus said to them, "You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?"
39 "Oh yes," they replied, "we are able!"
Then Jesus told them, "You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. 40 But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen."
41 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42 So Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Fear and dread grow thick as Jerusalem fast approaches. Jesus again tells his disciples what to expect: he will be handed over to his enemies, beaten and killed, and will rise back to life. James and John ask for a special place in the kingdom, but Jesus says God has already determined who will occupy those positions. The other disciples become indignant, and Jesus takes advantage of the teachable moment to describe true servant-leadership.
Everything (Mark 10:32)
This was Jesus' third, and most detailed,1052 prediction of the mistreatment and death he was going to suffer at the hands of the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Romans. Mark records how everything was fulfilled:
"we're going up to Jerusalem" = Mark 11:11
"where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law" = Mark 14:53-65
"They will sentence him to die" = Mark 14:64b
"and hand him over to the Romans" = Mark 15:1
"They will mock him, spit on him" = Mark 15:16-20 (see Mark 14:65)
"flog him with a whip" = Mark 15:15
"and kill him" = Mark 15:20b-39
"but after three days he will rise again" = Mark 16
Notice Jesus' repeated use of the word "and" (Greek kai) (9x in the Greek; 8x in the NASB): "behold we are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes and they will condemn him to death and they will hand him [over] to the Gentiles and they will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill [him] and after three days he will rise"1053 "The very simplicity of this style is actually dramatic and highly effective. ... They take us down, down to the most frightful death; this [last 'and'] by one tremendous stroke undoes it all and brings Jesus back to life in the resurrection of glory.1054
Places of honor (Mark 10:37)
Two of Jesus' disciples requested a permanent appointment1055 to the two highest "places of honor" once he had assumed the throne, which they expected to happen very soon.1056 ("[I]n a royal court both sides are places of honor, the left being only slightly less glorious than the right."1057) Their request was actually a mixture of both good and bad: "Their request was evidence of faith. They believed that according to his promise Jesus would be seated on the throne of his glory, and that each of The Twelve would also be seated on thrones. They were convinced of this in spite of the fact that at this moment there was little to show that events were moving in that direction. That much can be said in their favor. On the other hand, it is clear that sinful ambition was playing a role here. They desired that the two most honorable places should be assigned not to Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, or even to Peter and Andrew, but to themselves, James and John, to nobody else!"1058 James and John "did not understand that Jesus' kingdom is not of this world; it is not centered in palaces and thrones, but in the hearts and lives of his followers. None of the disciples understood this truth until after Jesus' resurrection."1059
Jesus said that the positions of honor being sought by James and John had already been decided by God - and thus could not be changed (Mark 10:40). "The eternal counsel of the Father, which fixed all things in regard to the kingdom, included also the disposition of the glory seats."1060While Jesus will indeed "distribute eternal rewards (2 Timothy 4:8), he will do so according to God's decisions."1061 It is with a deep sense of irony that during Jesus' crucifixion the "places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left" were occupied by two condemned rebels (Mark 15:27).1062 It is also worth noting that for the one rebel who repented and received salvation, God used an occasion of tremendous dishonor to bring about the greatest honor imaginable: eternity with Jesus.
Cup ... baptism (Mark 10:38, 39)
Jesus responded to the disciples' request by asking if they were able to undergo the type of dishonorable treatment he was about to endure. With a mixture of loyalty, self-confidence,1063 and naivety, they replied in the affirmative. (The expression "drink the/a cup" means to "fully undergo this or that experience, whether favorable or unfavorable."1064) Jesus said that they would indeed be called to endure a similar "'baptism of suffering.'" - that is, "be plunged into the flood of horrible distress."1065 ("In the Old Testament, 'deep waters' often described calamity, suffering, and the divine judgment of God."1066) Like most of their fellow Jews, the disciples believed the Messiah's kingdom would be earthly, and they thought Jesus was going to set up that kingdom very soon. And so James and John may have been volunteering to fight in "a messianic battle" to establish Jesus' earthly kingdom.1067 However, what Jesus had in mind was his "bearing the burden of God's judgment on sin which involved overwhelming sufferings culminating in His death (cf. Luke 12:50)."1068 The disciples would also suffer even to death, with James being the first apostle to die and John the last.1069
"The 'cup' and the 'baptism' refer to what Jesus would face on the cross. Mark alone recorded references to both the 'cup' and 'baptism.' These words would be familiar to the early church because of the rites of Eucharist and baptism. Mark may have intended to show his readers the true importance of these rites. To drink Jesus' cup and to be baptized with his baptism meant more than just taking part in a ritual; it also meant taking up his mission and his sufferings."1070
Indignant (Mark 10:41)
The other disciples were very angry with James and John - for beating them to the punch!1071 As one source puts it: "The ten prove themselves no better than the two. Many feel wronged by the success of others, but similar success on their part appears quite without wrong to them."1072 However, "[b]efore we react harshly to the disciples' behavior, we should recall how easy it is for us to be irritated at the honors others seek or receive."1073 Jesus used the situation "to instruct his disciples further on the type of service appropriate for the kingdom of God."1074 Thus Jesus continued his pattern of a passion prediction, "followed by important teaching of what followers of Jesus should expect and how they should live" (see Mark 8:34-9:1; 9:33-37).1075 Namely, they were to be servant-leaders who follow the example of their Servant-Master.
Servant ... slave (Mark 10:43, 44)
Jesus taught that among his followers there is a direct correlation between greatness and humble service. A leader must be "your (pl.) house servant (diakonos), one who voluntarily renders useful service to others," and the first must be "a slave (doulos), one who forfeits his own rights in order to serve any and all. A disciple is to serve others, not his own interests, voluntarily and sacrificially."1076 Whereas worldly greatness often depends on "coming down heavily on others"1077 in order to elevate oneself, to be great in God's kingdom is to be "self-giving," to pour one's self out "in service to others, for the glory of God."1078 Thus Jesus literally turned the idea of greatness on its head: "And now the Gentile idea of greatness is inverted, turned upside down, the pyramid rests on the apex, the great man does not sit atop the lesser men, but the great man bears the lesser men on his back."1079
This was actually nothing less than a revolutionary concept. "While the Old Testament often spoke of submission and service, it usually referred to a person's relationship with God. Jesus applied the concept of the servant attitude to a person's relationship to other people. In doing so, he transformed the ethics of the ancient world. The Greeks considered humility to be the lowest virtue; Jesus made it the highest."1080 To be great in God's kingdom is to be ready and willing to serve others. "Whether they reward and exalt us for this service or not makes no difference. ... The greatness is measured by the service and not by the power and authority arrogated and displayed."1081
Why is this the case? Because ("'For ...'" v. 45) even the Master - the only one entitled to absolute praise and honor and glory - humbled himself in voluntary, sacrificial, vicarious, and obedient service,1082 laying down his life so that others could live. One source paraphrases Jesus' thought: "'In the kingdom about to be set up ... [a]ll My servants shall there be equal; and the only greatness known to it shall be the greatness of humility and devotedness to the service of others. He that goes down the deepest in these services of self-denying humility shall rise the highest and hold the chiefest [sic.] place in that kingdom; even as the Son of man, whose abasement and self-sacrifice for others, transcending all, gives Him of right a place above all!'"1083
Ransom (Mark 10:45)
Jesus said that he "'came ... to give his life as a ransom for many'" (v. 45). "Jesus' mission was to serve - ultimately by giving his life in order to save sinful humanity. ... Jesus took our place; he died the death we deserved."1084 Here "'ransom'" refers to "the means or instrument by which release or deliverance is made possible,"1085 and "'for'" carries the thought of "'in the place of' or 'in exchange for.' The passage is a clear proof of Christ's substitutionary atonement."1086 As one source puts it: "The idea of Jesus as the 'ransom' is that he paid the price with his own life by standing in humanity's place as a substitute, enduring the judgment that was deserved for sin."1087
The Patient is the Doctor
The true story is told of Dr. Evan O'Neill Kane's quest to prove that local anesthesia would be a better option than the usual practice of always using general anesthesia.
The sixty-year-old chief surgeon of Kane Summit Hospital, located in New York City, had performed nearly four-thousand appendectomies. He decided to find a volunteer who would allow him to perform the operation while using local anesthesia.
But it was very difficult. There was a general fear that the effects of the anesthesia would wear off during the operation, leaving the patient in excruciating pain. And some people simply believed a local anesthesia would not work at all.
Finally, however, the doctor had his volunteer. And so on February 15, 1921 the volunteer was prepped for surgery, the local anesthesia was administered, and the surgery went without a hitch.
Dr. Kane proved his point and became famous twice over. He not only became the first surgeon to perform a major operation using only local anesthesia, but he had performed the operation on himself!1088
We can learn much from Dr. Kane's incredible example of sacrificial service. He did for others what they could not - and would not - do for themselves. Convinced of the rightness of his case, he went to incredible lengths to prove it.
"In Jesus' kingdom, leaders are those who work toward the best interests of others, not parading their authority or lording it over others. Servant leadership in Jesus' kingdom has a lot of the 'can do' spirit in it, a big portion of 'follow me to the hard work,' and a huge helping of 'your pile looks bigger than mine, let me help you.'"1089
??? It's been observed that leadership is influence. What are some practical steps we can take to positively influence those around us for Jesus Christ?