Mark's Key Verse - Mark 10: 32-45

The Gospel According to Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  46:38
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What makes a leader easy to follow?
Many leaders would love nothing more than to answer that question. Some leaders appear to have the best plans, the most knowledge, and ability to get things to
Mark 10:32–45 ESV
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 will mock 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.”
This first thing that we notice about this passage is the scene in which it is set. The first part of vs 32 sets the stage and provides the necessary background for the episode that follows.
Notice they are going to Jerusalem. There is a destination in view. Jesus has taught them about what awaits in Jerusalem. They’ve been slow to understand and receive it. But now they are definitively moving to Jerusalem.
Notice that Jesus is leading the way. The text says that He was walking ahead of them. Jesus up front, and many disciples following.
Notice that some of the disciples are amazed. Why the amazement?
Let’s remember what Jesus just taught them, which Jim covered so well last week. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
Whew. Sound impossible! I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any camel sized needle eyes lately.
With man it is indeed impossible. But nothing is impossible with God! The rich can be saved, the elite can come to repentance! But it require humility.
For each and every one of us, the call to repent and believe the Gospel is a humbling command. Admitting we are not good enough, strong enough, or powerful enough to save ourselves is humbling. But with God, all things are possible.
It can be hard for some because embracing Jesus can be a very risky thing to do. For some, their livelihood, their family, or their entire social sphere might be upended.
There is very high profile example of this in Kat Von D. I’m going to pretend to know the genuineness of her faith. But the path that she is currently walking is very costly to her from a worldly perspective.
So it’s humbling! But it comes with a promise:
Those who suffer earthly loss will receive heavenly recompence.
So yes, the disciples are amazed! As Peter says, they have left everything and followed Christ! Think of the reward that is waiting for them!
But amazement isn’t the only emotion being felt.
Look back at verse 32 once again.
“those who followed were fearful.
Fearful. Why the fear?
Perhaps its because of verse 31 “may who are first will be last and the last first”
Perhaps it’s because that those who receive those blessing receive them specifically because of the loss they endured, and the thought of such loss is fearful.
Perhaps it’s because the unnerving reality that the road into the kingdom is so narrow that it causes people like the rich young ruler to fall off.
Perhaps it’s because they realize that they are heading to Jerusalem, and the things that they have been told to expect there. Jesus has said that he will be handed over. He will die.
One scholar I read suggested that the fear could be due to the anticipation of a civil war in Jerusalem if Jesus attempts to establish his Messiahship there. Peter has declared that Jesus is the Messiah. The Messiah is the one who was to finally cast of Rome and restore the Kingdom to Israel. But Jesus is not on friendly terms with the current religious elite, and Rome isn’t exactly going to roll over and play dead either. So there was sure to be a fight, a revolution! If that is indeed where their minds were, the fear might be understandable.
Ultimately we have to recognize that all this is speculative.
But it sets the stage for us, because as we here today in the year 2023 who still desire to follow Jesus, we might have our own fears about the way he is leading us in our own contexts.
Mark helps us see ourselves in the disciples as if he’s holding up a mirror.
But we can have confidence as we follow our Master. We need not follow in fear.
Why not? Because we are following the one who knows the way.

Follow the One Who Knows the Way

Jesus takes the twelve aside and tells them in more detail what he has already told them before: Behold! We are going up to Jerusalem.
Jesus has his sights set on his destination. All throughout this Gospel we have seen Jesus is the one who controls his ministry. He revealed himself in his time and in his way.
Jesus knows where he is going.
Jesus knows why he is going.
the son of man will be delivered to the cheif priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. They will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill him. And after three days, he will rise.
Jesus has his sights set on his mission.
Jesus not only knows what he must do, but he knows how it will all play out. The road is hard. it leads through death. But He will come out the other side victorious.
This is the third of Jesus’ predictions about his death as he has been teaching his disciples about these things, and it is also the most detailed.
With each suffering prediction Jesus communicates the same core truths:
I will be handed over.
They will kill me.
I will rise again.
With this prediction, Jesus adds more detail about the suffering that he is to endure. Mockery. Spitting. Flogging. Death.
Jesus emphasis on this is likely due to the disciples’s thirst for notoriety and we will see in a moment. They are headed to Jersualem, and it’s not going to be pretty. Though the crowds will welcome him into the city with shouts of hosanna, there will be no coronation. There will be no revolution. Only suffering and death.
But even as he predicts his death, he gives them hope: three days later I will rise from the dead.
This is the way. This is what must happen. This is what Isaiah fortold. This is what God has designed.
So Jesus, in complete control of his mission, lays it out for the disciples to prepare them for the road.
A road that he expects his followers to travel.
Not in the same way, of course. One one will be the substitutionary sacrifice. But those who follow must be prepared to suffer.
But in that suffering, we take comfort in knowing that Jesus knows the way.
Few things in life are more frustrating than following someone who doesn’t know the way. I was once driving to an event in downtown Kansas City, and I was sure I knew the way, but evidently I took a wrong turn and was unable to find me way. That alone isn’t a big deal, but this was the before everyone had GPS in their phone, and I had other cars following me because I insisted to them that I knew the way, just follow me and we’ll get there. And I got us lost. I thought I knew the way, but I didn’t.
Jesus is not like that. He is not a blind, overly self-confident leader who is making it up as he goes.
He knows the way, because he made the way.
We do not have to be fearful as his followers were, but rather we can be confident because Jesus is a trustworthy leader.
That was true then. And that is true now.
And His way is the way of self-sacrifice.
His way is also the way of humility.

Follow the One Whose Way is Humility

What follows is one of the oddest timed interactions between the disciples and Jesus. As you read the narrative, Jesus has just said “he y'all, I’m going to go die.”
And it is at that moment that James and John come with their audacious request.
But if you look closer, it actually makes sense that they chose this moment.
They believe that He is the messiah. They are headed to Jerusalem. He has just spoken of death, yes, but he has also spoken of resurrection!
This is the moment to ask, okay, when all that happens and you are reigning as the messiah, this is what we want.
Vs 37. Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.
In s many ways, this is such a foolish request. There is so much arrogance, so much pride, so much hubris. Jesus reveals the folly of self-seeking self exaltation.

The Folly of Self-Exaltation

Jesus challenges them: you don’t know what you’re asking. If you want to sit with me, you have suffer like me.
He uses two word pictures to speak of what he is going to endure.
There is the cup that he drinks. Jesus is going to use this language again in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prays if possible let this cup pass from me. In other contexts, the cup refers to the cup of God’s judgement and wrath.
It speaks of an experience pf suffering to be endured.
Then he says are you able to endure my baptism.
Of course, he is not speaking of literal water baptism.
The word to baptize itself simple means to immerse, to plunge, to dip. There are places in extra biblical literature where this word is used to mean something like “overwhelmed or swamped by misfortune or sorrow”
Jesus says I’m about to be plunged into something that you cannot even fathom. Think you can handle that too?
Some commentators find a sad irony in that the only other place the phrase “one on the right hand and the other on the left” is used throughout Mark is when describing the two thieves handing on the cross, who very much are experiencing the physical trauma that Christ endured.
But he asks them. can you endure it?
In verse 39 they say think they can. “we are able” which again, only further underscores that they really don’t know what they are asking.
There is a degree to which you can admire their confidence and courage, but it is all going to ring rather hollow in a few chapters when they all flee in the Garden at Jesus’ arrest.
Notice how Jesus responds.
“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”
Jesus says, you know what, you will suffer in like manner to me. You will be hated for my sake. You will endure great hardship on account of my name. James is going be killed by King Herod. John is going to be exiled to Patmos serving as slave labor, but according to church tradition that was only after they attempted to kill him by boiling him alive and him seemingly miraculously surviving that and coming our unscathed.
So yeah, these guys are going to suffer.
But this request is still out of line. These positions of privilege aren’t achieved through by suffering, nor by seeking a favor from the Messiah.
Look now at verse 41 where the other disciples get upset.
Mark 10:41 “And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.”
There are two possible reasons for being upset at these two brothers.
righteous indignation. Can you believe James and John. What an arrogant thing to do! It’s not right to make those kinds of requests!
Jealous Indignation. I can’t believe they had the guts to ask that of Jesus! That’s the position I wanted to ask from him, and they beat me to it!
Mark doesn’t tell us directly which is the case, but Jesus response and the track record of the disciples in this book point us to option two.
They were upset, not because they recognized this request as inherently sinful, but because James and John beat them to the punch!
So Jesus brings them together for another lesson.

Self-exaltation is worldly

Mark 10:42 “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.”
This whole position-seeking thing. That’s what the pagans do. That’s worldly. That is not the way of the Messiah.
Paul is going to speak again selfishness in Phil 2 when he writes
Philippians 2:3–5 ESV
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
Selfish ambition. Conceit. It speaks of that whole vying for position thing. Insisting on our own way.
James contrasts this kind of approach with the wisdom from above and even goes so far as to say that a self-seeking life is demonic!
James 3:14–15 ESV
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
Selfish ambition. Pursing positions of influence or authority. Seeking to get your own way. The fruit of demonic influence.
This is serious stuff. Jesus says that’s how the pagans operate. That’s not how it should be with you.
Back to mark 10. Look at verses 43-44
Mark 10:43–44 “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.”
Does that sound familiar to you? Has Jesus already taught on this?
In chapter nine after his second teaching on his death, they were traveling again and Jesus asked them “what were you discussing on the way” and turns out there were arguing about which of them was the greatest! So Jesus says “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all, and servant of all.”
And then just last week at the conclusion of his teaching about heavenly recompense, Jesus added the comment, many who are first will be last, and the last first.
But here the disciples are, still seeking their own agendas.
You want to be great? You want a position of privilege? back of the line. Get your serving clothes on. Scrub them toilets. Carry the load.
One of the most important qualities in a leader is humility. Humility is also one of those qualities that is difficult to self assess. If you think you have it, you probably don’t.
Moses wrote of himself that he was the most humble man alive. I don’t think we could write the same words with honesty.
But show me a humble person, and I’ll show you someone who is great the Kingdom of God. Show me a humble person, and I’ll show you someone with true leadership potential.
For some reason a while back I decided to become a little more active on X, formally twitter. And I was absolutely shocked at the way that some Christian leaders, men for whom I had respect, were interacting on that platform. I regularly see name calling, whining about being blocked, mockery, and all forms of bombastic statements. Why?
It creates engagement. Gotta get those interactions up so I can get more followers. Gotta have more followers so I can have a greater influence.
And that is the key word isn’t. Influence. Social media influencers. Pride. Unbecoming of a leader in Christ’s church.
That’s what the world does! We can see this in our own political system, can’t we? Our political system right now is driven by hubris. We flock around charismatic personalities, and that’s true no matter what corner of the political spectrum we are on!
Oh that the Lord would grant us a humble, morally upright, and biblically wise leader.
How the world functions is not how Christ’s disciples are to function.
We are not to seek our own position, but to pursue service to others.

Follow the One Whose Way is Service

Whoever would be great must be your servant. Whoever would be first must be slave of all.
And then we have verse 45. Jesus provides them with himself as an example to them.
Jesus is not out here with a “do what I say, not what I do” mentality. Jesus is putting his own words into action. He is leading by example here. He isn’t instructing us to do something he was unwilling to do himself. verse 45.
Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””
Not even the Son of Man, the only one who could have ever laid claim to the throne, the only one who could have ever said “This is mine, I deserve this” and been 100% correct, the only one who genuinely has an inherent right to rule, not even the Son of Man, the Messiah Himself came to be served.
And we think we have the right to seek those kind of positions? Who do we think we are?
Jesus did not come to be served. But to serve.
But he didn’t stop with service. He came to give his life a ransom for many.
The word ransom speaks of a purchase price paid, and if, of course, a reference to his substitutionary death on the cross.
Jesus is our supreme example of service and self sacrifice.
Mark 10:45 is widely and rightly considered to be the Key Verse for the Gospel of Mark. Jesus is presented as the suffering servant who fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy. It’s a verse that is worth memorizing.
Following Jesus is not taking the easy road. The road is marked with suffering. It is the way of humility and service.
But it is the only road worth walking, and we have the comfort of knowing that Jesus knows the way because he made the way.
We have the comfort of knowing that we do not walk alone.
We have the comfort of knowing that we follow a savior who has gone before us.
So I close with the words of Hebrews 12:1–3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
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