Mark 10:32–45comment (0)
January 28, 2010
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Mark 10:32–45
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL
Third Prediction of Death (32–34)
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them of His approaching death. In this third prediction, much fuller than the first two (Mark 8:31; 9:31), Jesus named Jerusalem as the goal of their march and introduced the role of the “Gentiles” in His death there. He taught also about His resurrection. Clearly the disciples were slow to “get it!” They thought the Messiah would be a king like David at his best, i.e., He would win all His battles. Losing even one skirmish was proof a leader was not God’s messiah. When Jesus spoke of His death at the hands of His enemies, the disciple quit listening because it did not fit their ideas of the Messiah. Little wonder they never caught on to the resurrection.
James and John (35–40)
Thinking in purely political terms, James and John asked for the two places of highest honor in Jesus’ kingdom.
Jesus replied that the brothers did not understand what their request entailed. Suffering rather than glory lay dead ahead. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “Cup” was a common Old Testament figure for suffering (e.g., Ps. 16:5; 75:8; Isa. 51:17, 22), and “baptism” carried overtones of death (e.g., Ps. 42:7; 69:1–3).
Again the pair spoke out of their ignorance, “We can.” They must have been thinking of heroic, glorious death in battle when Jesus ran out the Romans and retook Jerusalem, but the Lord had in mind only shameful martyrdom.
“You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.” Presumably Jesus meant the two (and maybe all His followers) would face suffering and death if they stayed faithful to Him. Acts 12:2 reports James’ martyrdom (A.D. 44). Nothing is known of the circumstances of John’s death.
The Lord never denied there were places to His right and His left in His kingdom or that some of those places stood nearer His own place than did others. Nor did He suggest that James and John could not have those seats or that the seats were meant for others (perhaps not even just two others). In fact, His words in verses 43 and 44 suggest that those places may be open to anyone. The indeterminate language, “Whoever wishes,” repeated twice, opens the door to all. But in the end, the seats will be given to those for whom the Father has prepared them.
Other Disciples (41–45)
Though more hesitant to seek it, the other disciples were no less covetous of high honor. The request by the sons of Zebedee upset them because they wanted those places for themselves. Jesus used this occasion to contrast the self-assertion of earthly rulers with the self-sacrifice He called for among His followers. Himself He offered as the pattern of the service that exalts. To be a success in God’s eyes, a disciple must be a servant.
At this point, Jesus’ thought moved from His example to the saving results of His self-sacrificial death. Who better than Jesus knew the meaning of His death?
His words in verse 45 indicate His death was purposeful. The Son of Man came to do what He did.
His death was also substitutionary. A “ransom” is usually a price paid to set a man free. To ask to whom Jesus paid this ransom price is the wrong question. A soldier who dies for his country’s freedom pays a price, but he pays it to no one. It cost Jesus the cross, but He willingly laid down His life to save. Also note the preposition “for” (Greek anti) used in a number of Bible translations means “in the place of.” Jesus died not only “for” guilty sinners but also “in their place!” I should have hung on the cross in disgrace but He took my place.
Finally His death was sufficient. In Aramaic (the language of Jesus), “many, the many” stands in opposition to “one, the one” or “few, the few.” Had Jesus meant the benefits of His death were limited to only some from the human race, He would have said “few.” In that He said “many,” He indicated He died for all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. Jesus died for all who ever lived or ever will.