Sermon #44                                                                  Series: Mark


            Title:               FIVE GREAT THINGS

            Text:               Mark 10:35-45

            Reading:         Mark 10:32-52

            Subject:          The Disciples’ Strife About Who Should Be Greatest

            Date:               Sunday Morning - March 22, 1998

            Tape # U-58a



            We have before us a very sad, sad picture. Our Lord Jesus has just taught his disciples again that he was going to Jerusalem to suffer and die according to the will of God as our Substitute. Once he had satisfied the wrath and justice of God for us, he promised that he would rise from the dead on the third day.


            I would think the disciples would have been so overcome by such teaching that they could hardly think of anything else, much less talk about anything else. But that was not the case. James and John, two of the Lord’s most intimate disciples, had something else altogether on their minds. These two brothers asked the Master that he would grant to them the place of highest honor and greatness in his kingdom!


            This sad story is recorded here by divine inspiration for our learning and admonition. May God the Holy Spirit be our Teacher as we study it together.


Proposition:            If there is anything plainly revealed and taught in these verses of Inspiration it is the fact that the best, noblest, and most highly honored of God’s saints in this world are sinners still, in constant need of grace and forgiveness by the blood of Christ.


Divisions:     The title of my message this morning is FIVE GREAT THINGS. I want to show you five great things set before us in our text.

1.      A Great Problem (vv. 35-41).

2.      A Great Promise (vv. 39-40).

3.      A Great Precept (vv. 42-44).

4.      A Great Pattern (v. 45).

5.      A Great Purchase (v. 45).


I.       The Holy Spirit holds up these disciples to set before us A Great Problem, a problem with which we have to struggle all the time (vv. 35-41).


            The problem of which I speak is pride, ungodly, disgusting, shameful, sinful, foolish pride.


Mark 10:35-41  "And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. (36) And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? (37) They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. (38) But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? (39) And they said unto him, We can... (41) And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John."


            James and John were true believers. They were born of God. They truly loved the Lord Jesus Christ. But they were terribly ignorant of some very important, basic things, ignorant of some very basic gospel truths. Their ignorance was overshadowed only by their pride.

These two brothers


·        Asked the Lord to give them the place of pre-eminence in his kingdom!

·        Presumed that they could personally suffer and endure all that the Lord Jesus would have to suffer and endure as the Lamb of God! - “WE CAN!”

·        Sought a position of superiority over their brethren!


            Here are two of the Apostles of Christ seeking great things for themselves. But we must not be too hard in our judgment of them. Their pride was only a fair representation of the pride of our own hearts.


It is the pride of our hearts that this passage of Scripture is intended to expose and check. Let me point out two or three things in these verses.


A.    First, let us all learn this fact: Genuine believers are often ignorant of things which seem elementary to others.


            Though our Lord plainly instructed them, though they were themselves chosen Apostles, James and John simply did not understand the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom, or the necessity of his substitutionary sacrifice and sin-atoning death. Mary Magdalene understood those things, but they did not, at least not at this time. They truly trusted Christ. They were men whose sins the Lord Jesus had forgiven, men into whose hands he had placed the keys of his kingdom; but they had a lot, an awful lot to learn!


Note: I‘ve quit trying to say how much a person has to know to be saved. The issue is not what you know, but who. Salvation is not in knowing doctrines and facts. Salvation is knowing a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.


B.    Second, we see here that God’s saints in this world are sinners still.


            That includes you and me. We are a people with a vile, sinful, hellish, ungodly nature called “flesh”; and “that which is born of the flesh is flesh”! We are such wretched sinners that we must constantly watch over our souls and guard against pride, self-esteem, and self-confidence. These things are so deeply rooted and ingrained in us that we are seldom truly aware of their presence.


            The other disciples were as guilty as James and John. They were displeased with James and John, not because they asked for this place of honor, but because they did not ask first. They were upset because James and John wanted to be exalted above them!


            It is not at all unusual for those who truly have come out of the world, taken up the cross, forsaken all, and follow Christ to become envious, jealous, and offended if a brother or sister is promoted above us. Shoot, we get hurt if someone mentions two or three names in public, but fails to mention ours! Such pride is horribly shameful. It causes strife and division. It ought not to be. But it certainly is not unusual.


C.    The fact is, the greatest problem we face, the most dangerous enemy we have to deal with is our own stinking pride.


            Pride is the oldest of all sins, the most universal, and the most destructive. We all love power, pre-eminence, prestige, position, and property because we are all terribly proud. It is our pride that causes us to crave attention and to become upset with those who get it instead of us.

1.      Pride inspired Lucifer’s fall (Isa. 14:12-14).

2.      Pride brought one third of the heavenly angels down to hell (Jude 6).

3.      Pride seduced Eve.

4.      Pride destroyed Adam.

5.      Pride divides men (Ps. 10:2).


Psalms 10:2  "The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined."


            What is it that divides, separates, and distinguishes men and women from one another according to race, rank, and riches? Pride! What is it that divides brethren? Pride! What is it that splits up families? Pride! What is it that causes war? Pride!


            Even among God’s saints, our greatest problems, difficulties, injuries, and troubles are the result of pride. Thomas Hooker once said, “Pride is a vice that cleaveth so fast unto the hearts of men that if we were to strip ourselves of all faults one by one, we would undoubtedly find it the very last and hardest to put off”.


6.     It is pride that keeps sinners from seeking the Lord (Ps. 10:4).


Psalms 10:4  "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts."


7.     Of all those things named in the Bible which God hates, pride is number one (Pro. 6.17).


8.     It is our pride that makes us weak and vulnerable to temptations.


            When our Lord asked James and John if they could endure the baptism he had to endure and drink the cup he had to drink, they did not hesitate to say, “We can”.


            Did you ever notice in the Word of God that the recorded falls of God’s saints are usually at the very point where they were strongest; not at their weakest point, but at their strongest? Look at Job. What man was ever so patient as Job? Yet, I know of none more impatient. Moses was the weakest man who ever lived. Yet, his rash anger kept him out of the promised land. Samson was the strongest man who ever lived. Yet, he was conquered by a woman. Saul never had a friend so loyal as David. Yet, David killed his friend Uriah. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived; but he was also, undoubtedly, one of the most foolish.


            My point is this - We must never be so proud as to trust in our own strength. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, not in our strength. Therefore Paul said, “When I am weak, then am I strong”. When we foolishly imagine, in the pride of our hearts, that we are strong, then we are most weak.


Doug and I discussed this very subject yesterday. He made a very wise observation. He said, “When we think we are strong, we think we can do things on our own and we don’t need Him.” Children of God, beware of that pride that makes you think you don’t need Him.


II.    Look at verses 39 and 40 again. In spite of their ignorance, pride and sin, the Lord Jesus gave his disciples A Great Promise.


Mark 10:39-40  "Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: 40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared."


            After reading all the good commentaries I have on this verse of Scripture during the past few weeks, I could not find any help in interpreting our Lord’s statement in verse 39. “Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized.”


            Perhaps there is some sense in which our Lord was saying, You, too, shall be persecuted and required to suffer much. But that simply is not the same thing. I may not yet have all that is contained in these two verses, but the Lord has shown me three things plainly, three things that make these two verse read like a truly great, magnanimous promise to me.


A.    First, he assures us that All the horror of God’s indescribable wrath which he was about to endure as our Substitute He would endure voluntarily.


            He compares his sufferings and death as a baptism, an immersion. He was wholly immersed in the overwhelming wrath of the infinite God for us, in our place, as our Substitute. But by referring to his sufferings as a baptism, he is telling us that they were not forced upon him by the hand of another. Baptism is not something forced upon a man. It is a voluntary act. Yet, it is something done to him by another. The Son of God was voluntarily baptized in the wrath of God by his Father’s own hand. It is written, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him”.


            Our all-glorious Christ also refers to his sin-atoning sacrifice and the wrath he experienced and endured as our Substitute as a cup. A cup is something taken voluntarily. The Lord of glory willingly took the cup of wrath, when he was made to be sin for us. Voluntarily, with one tremendous draught of love, drank damnation dry for us! He so loved us that he took the cup of God’s wrath as our Substitute as willingly as a thirsty man takes a cup of water!


B.    Second, Our Master promised these sinful, errant disciples that they would indeed be baptized with his baptism and drink his cup.


            I can only think of one way that is possible. The only way on this earth you and I can be baptized with his baptism and drink his cup is representatively, in him as our Surety and Substitute.


·        By Imputation!

·        By Faith!


Psalms 116:12-13  "What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? (13) I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD."


            Indeed, this is exactly what is symbolized and pictured in the ordinances of the gospel. We, in our baptism have confessed that we were crucified with Christ at Calvary, buried with Christ in baptism, and raised with Christ in the resurrection. As we take the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, we symbolically take the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, symbolically eating and drinking the body and blood of our Savior.


C.    Then, in verse 40, The Lord Jesus assures us that there is a kingdom of glory, a kingdom of heaven, already prepared by our heavenly Father for his elect which shall be given to those for whom it was prepared.


Mark 10:40  "But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared."


1.      Eternal life, the heavenly glory, is a kingdom prepared by God the Father from the foundation of the world, not for everyone, not for just anyone, but for a specific people.


2.      Those for whom it was prepared shall possess it at last in all its fulness and glory.


3.      They shall possess it in its entirety by the gift of God’s free grace in Christ.


III. Third, the Lord Jesus sets before us A Great Precept (vv. 42-44).


Mark 10:42-44  "But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. (43) But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: (44) And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all."


            Listen to me now, and I will tell you what those words mean. Are you listening? A life of self-denying kindness and service to others is the secret of true greatness.


            The standards of the world and the standards of our Lord are exact opposites. In the kingdom of God he is truly great who lives for, seeks, and promotes the temporal, spiritual, and eternal welfare of others.


            “True greatness consists, not in receiving, but in giving,-- not in the selfish absorption of good things, but in imparting good to others,--not in being served, but in serving,-- not in sitting still and being ministered to, but in going about and ministering to others.”  J.C. Ryle


A.    If I want true greatness in the kingdom of god, I must find that place in God’s kingdom where I am needed and can be most useful, and be a “minister”.


            The word translated minister is the same word that is commonly translated deacon. It refers to a person who does menial labor, house cleaning, serving tables, gardening, etc. It is the least recognized, but often the most needed, and certainly the most basic service.


B.    If I really want to be a truly admirable person in the church and kingdom of God, I must make myself the servant of all, a slave to the people of God.


            The word servant means slave. A servant may not have much; but a slave has nothing to call his own. The slavery here spoken of is a totally voluntary slavery.


            Those who are truly great and admirable in the family of God are those men and women who devote themselves in humble, self-denying, self-abasing, self-sacrificing service to God’s elect. They willingly serve the Lord’s people for Christ’s sake. They are people who have learned that “It (really) is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).


            Truly great people are those who enrich the lives of others. They are the very few men and women of whom it can be truthfully said, “The world is a better place because of them than it would otherwise be”.


            Perhaps you think, “That is just too much to expect from anyone. It is unreasonable to expect anyone to stoop so low.” You are absolutely right, unless that person is interested in striving to be like Christ. Look at verse 45.


IV. Here, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us, uses himself as A Great Pattern and example for us to follow (v. 45).


Mark 10:45  "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."


            This is our Savior’s message to us - See that you strive to be like me.


1 John 2:6  "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."


A.    Did the Lord Jesus live in this world as the servant of God, to do the will of God (Hebrews 10:5-10)? If I would be like him, I must seek to live in this world as the servant of the Most High God, doing the will of God (Phil. 2:1-9).


B. Did the Son of God live in this world as the servant of men (John 13:4-5, 12-17)? If I would walk in his steps, I must endeavor to spend my life and energy serving the needs (temporal, spiritual, emotional, and eternal needs) of others.


Lord, help me to live from day to day In such a self forgetful way

That even when I kneel to pray My prayer shall be for others.


Help me in all the work I do To ever be sincere and true,

And know that all I’d do for You Must needs be done for others.


Savior, help me in all I do To magnify and copy You.

That I may ever live like You, Help me to live for others.


V.    Now, look at verse 45 again, and I will show you the greatest thing of all, A Great Purchase.


Mark 10:45  "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."


            Not only has the Son of God given us a noble example of self-denying love and service by his obedience to God the Father for us, he has by his great, sin-atoning sacrifice and substitutionary death purchased and ransomed us…


·        From the Curse of God’s Holy Law by His Precious Blood (Rom. 8:1-4, 33-34; Gal. 3:13).


·        From the Slavery of Sin by His Blood Applied in Saving Grace (Rom. 6:18).


·        Into the Glorious Liberty of The Sons of God (Tit. 2:14).


A.    The ransom price was his precious blood.


Ephesians 1:7  "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;"


1 Peter 1:18-20  "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; (19) But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (20) Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,"


Revelation 5:9  "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;"


B.    The ransom price was paid for “many”, and paid for them in particular, as the objects of his special love and saving purpose.


            The “many” for whom the Lord Jesus Christ paid this great ransom price are clearly identified in the Book of God as the many…


·        Ordained Unto Eternal Life (Acts 13:48).

·        Given to Him in The Covenant of Grace (John 6:37-40).

·        For Whom He Makes Intercession (John 17:9, 20).

·        Called by His Spirit (Rev. 19:9).

·        Saved by His Grace(John 1:12-13).

·        To Whom He Gives the Gift of Faith (Eph. 2:8).

·        For Whom His Father has Prepared and to Whom He Shall Give the Kingdom of Glory (Mk. 10:40).