Reflections on Mark 10:35-45
In Mark 10:32-34 Jesus talks with his disciples about what was going to happen to him when they got to Jerusalem. Make no mistake about it – Jesus was fully aware of the path he was on. He understood that his arrest, condemnation, torture and death were all looming. He wasn’t surprised. He wasn’t caught off guard. He knew that the path of human reconciliation ran right through his body on a cross. He also was well aware that it wasn’t just suffering that was headed his way like an out of control train. No, he also knew that after being reviled, he would be resurrected. The deep ring of death would not be the final note to sound over his life.
Okay, now to Mark 10:35-45. Right on the heels of Jesus’ talk of his bodily sacrifice comes the shallow, ego-centric request of James & John. “We know you just told us that you were going to be killed….but before you die we’d like you to grant our request. Oh yeah…the request is that you elevate us above these other 10 goofy disciples. We’d like to be the ones sitting in the prime positions in the Kingdom.” Wow…that takes a steel set to ask that.
Okay…so it’s super easy to mock James and John. In fact that would be fun blog post because it would keep me from having to deal with the verses that follow. And it’s the verses that follow the remind me that the sad reality is I can be
I can’t tell you how often I morph, like James & John, into the Jesus is my genie mode. “Okay Jesus…I need you to do this…and then do that. I really want this thing – it will really make me happy. And oh yeah, I kinda need this other thing. Hey…how about that promotion…and what a about a bigger bank account…I sure could use bigger biceps and a smaller beer belly and man….I wish my children were more obedient.” And on and on and on I go. All of a sudden I don’t look all that different from James and John & you’re writing a blog post making fun of what a tool I am. Ughhh.
If you read the passage you’ll see that Jesus says “no” to their request. But he doesn’t stop there – he takes a moment to delve into the heart issue that led to their misguided question.
James and John wanted to be significant. And the desire for significance isn’t a bad desire. In fact, I believe that since God created us to be significant you can argue that the desire is God-given. However, the way most of us go about obtaining significance is what has caused so much pain and devastation in our life and throughout human history – starting in Genesis 3.
Our quest for significance has led us down the road of self-exaltation, self-centeredness and the exploitation of others. We see others as pawns to be moved around to our advantage. We use people for our pleasure and to ease the guilt in our soul. We believe that our desires are most important and people should bow to those things long before they address their own wants. This can be seen in our marriages, our parenting, the porn we look at, the music we listen to, the promotions we fight for, the white lies we utter, the way we drive, the way we interact with our neighbors and in every other arena in our life. We pursue significance at the expense of others…and it has produced devastating consequences.
But, as Howard Hendricks, one of my former professors whom I have deep respect and admiration for, used to say, “in God’s economy the way up is down.” The greatest among us (i.e. those who are most significant) are those who serve…who put the needs of others above their own. The people who make the biggest impact are the ones who live by the “I’m third” mentality – God first, others second and me third. And not only did Jesus preach this message…he demonstrated it in the clearest manner – he gave up his life as a ransom for mankind.
Want to be significant? Start by acknowledging that you’ve probably been going at it in a destructive way – destructive to you and to others. Ask God for the grace to turn around and head in another direction. Start making amends to those you’ve wounded in your quest for significance. And then open your eyes to the needs around you and start serving. Do this not because you have to serve to make God like you…but because He has already performed the greatest act of servitude in all of human history – his death to cover your sins and to heal your brokenness and his resurrection which proclaims his victory. We serve because we’ve been served. We love because he’s first loved us.
Want to learn more? Spend some time reading and thinking through these passages: