Mark 10:35-45
To Serve

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. When traveling the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus put a question to his disciples. "Who do the people say I am?" The disciples gave him their answers. Some say, "'[You are] John the Baptizer.' Also, some say, '[He is] Elijah,' and some say, '[He is] a prophet.'" Thereupon, Jesus put another question to them. "Now then, who do you say I am?" Thereupon, Peter replied, "You are the messiah," (8:29). It was Peter who answered, but the other disciples would have had the same answer no doubt. Of course, we would answer the same way as well. However, when we give the answer, "You are the messiah," what does that answer of ours really mean to say?

When You Receive Your Glory

2. While reading today's scripture, we will first of all try to see what the answer "You are the messiah" meant to Peter and to the other disciples at that time.

3. The sons of Zebedee James and John said to Jesus, "Master, we would like for you to grant what we ask of you." Then, when the Lord said, "What do you want of me?," they shot out their request, "When you receive your glory, please let both of us sit with you one on your right and one on your left," (verse thirty-seven).

4. For the disciples, this man Jesus was a personage soon expected "to receive glory." Translated literally, it is the phrase of "in your glory," but this clearly connotes "to become the king." Therefore, we have in the text a statement about [their] wanting him to let them be seated on both sides of his [throne]. Messiah means "the anointed one." The person of Jesus is truly the king anointed by God, he is the king appointed by God, he will establish the kingdom of God on earth, and he is the one who has come to be king over the kingdom of God. That's how the disciples were believing [him to be].

5. As plain for them to see, the messiah was yet to arrive upon his throne in the real world of existence. For the kingdom of God to be realized, where the messiah would rule, it was obvious that they still had to go through severe battles involving great suffering; because a powerful worldly government opposed to a messianic government in this world was in existence.

6. The worldly power, at enmity with the messiah whom the disciples had in their vision before them, was primarily the mighty imperial Roman government. The Jews back then were territorial subjects of Rome. God's people were under a heathen government. The people hoped that the Roman system of government would topple and that Israel would be restored. Without that the arrival of the kingdom of God would not be possible. Therefore, above all else, they were waiting and hoping for a powerful king to topple Rome. "You are the messiah." -- [As] the disciples expressed their faith with that [statement], they shared the expectations commonly held by [other] Jews like them.

7. But as the disciples continued in their journey with Jesus, they would come to confront another great force in opposition to the messiah. It was the Jewish religious leaders. As you know, Jesus often took a meal with sinners, tax collector types, and also others cast aside by society. Naturally, his disciples too had shared in the meals with them. Hold it, way more than that even, Jesus even had a tax collector join his flock of disciples. What had come to be apparent with the disciples during their encounters and interactions is the truth that both tax collectors and sinners and [anybody] was loved [and wanted] by God and called to him. But, having meals with them like he did and living that way brought great troubles. For, it meant that he could not avoid a showdown with the religious authorities who had alienated these [people] and condemned them as guilty sinners. If [somebody] follows the messiah named Jesus, and if [somebody] put his or her hopes in this messiah's becoming the king, it would have to mean direct confrontation with the antagonistic religious rulers already in place.

8. And now here was Jesus and his party on the way up the road to Jerusalem. He was going right to Jerusalem where the hostile authorities awaited him. It was clear to anybody looking that the Lord was going up to the capitol city with a special resolve. In verse thirty-two, the scripture says, "While his party was going up to Jerusalem, Jesus proceeded forth at the head of the line. In seeing this, the disciples were astonished and his followers were afraid." Everyone had the feeling ahead of time that a final battle was waiting for them there.

9. But, all the disciples were confident of winning. James and John were trying to secure promises in advance because they had the firm belief that Jesus would be coming into his glory and would be ruling as the king. "When you receive your glory, please let one of us sit on your right and the other on your left." In verse forty-one the scripture says, As the ten other disciples heard this, they began to get angry at James and John." Everybody was thinking the same thing. Up to that point, the disciples held the conviction that Jesus would certainly come into his glory. Why [did they]?

10. First, it is believed that they had gotten the support of a wide audience. An overwhelming number of people were on their side. We understand that even by looking at the situation around Jesus' entry into the capitol city of Jerusalem. "Many spread their garments on the road, and others came having cut branches with leaves on them from out of the fields and spread them on the road. Then, those following from the front and those following from the back shouted, 'Praise to the savior. Let him who is come in the name of the Lord be blessed. Let the coming nation of our father David be blessed. Hosanna to the highest'," (11:8-10). This was the situation they were in.

11. But, it wasn't just the number of people that was with them. There were also the miraculous powers that Jesus had shown over and over so far that they had. To begin with, the many multitudes had seen the miracles Jesus caused and they followed as they saw the power of God in that. As the Old Testament frequently depicts, in decisive scenes, there are divine supernatural interventions. By means of the power of God directly revealed, Jesus of Nazareth was clearly shown to be the God anointed king. Both the disciples and the multitudes must have been expecting this. Therefore, even though the system of government of imperial Rome was as mighty as it was, and the ancient Jewish religious system of government was as strong as it was, it would pose no problem whatsoever. -- Because they believed that it would all be overturned by the divine power revealed in Jesus. Therefore, James and John requested of him, "When you come into your glory, please let one of us sit on your right and the other on your left."

He Came To Serve

12. Well, this is what the disciples were thinking [as] they confessed "You are the messiah." Now what about us? We often think things similar to that. Don't we?

13. We have experienced the power of the world in conflict with God and working strong and hard doing so. We have seen the powers of the state have diabolical effects. Furthermore, we've seen that the structures of these powerful ruling bodies in conflict with God can exist even in the religious world. And we often think, "These evil powers must be overturned and ruled by 'a greater power.' We must conquer power with power." Indeed we do, even the disciples believed like that and had no doubts against it. Therefore, they were looking for the arrival of a powerful messiah. They were looking for a true king to overturn the evil powers with his power. Many today may not be looking [exactly] for that kind of messiah, but instead may be looking to strong leaders and their weapons of mass destruction.

14. The mentality that power must be conquered with power shows itself even in our close relationships with others. James and John made a request in which they wanted to stand above the other disciples. The other disciples' requests were the same too. The gospel account tells us that there was a debate of "Who is the greatest?" among them, (9:34). When I read that passage, I imagine that a conflict based on differences in how to see and think about ordinary affairs had been emerging among the disciples. When there is no conflict, "Who is the best?" is not a big issue. When there is a conflict, it becomes a major issue. -- Because when there is a conflict, you have to make the other guy submit to you. It takes power to make someone submit. You must be standing on the ruling side to make someone submit. Thus, in different forms though they be, persons looking for a messiah with power to rule and save the world will start to make an issue of power relations, doing so even in their close relationships. And also, they will seek to have greater power and will seek to stand on the ruling side. Indeed, they will. This kind of thing even takes place in denominations. It takes place even in individual churches. It takes place even in the lives of individual Christians.

15. But, Jesus called his men to his side, and spoke to them as follows: "As you know, among the Gentiles, those considered the rulers rule the people, and the great men wield their authority. However, among you it is not that way. The one who wants to be great among you will become a servant to everyone, the one who wants to be the highest will become a servant to everybody. The son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to offer his own life as a ransom for many," (verses forty-two through forty-five).

16. In this manner then, Jesus revealed a completely different figure of the messiah than which the disciples had embraced. Jesus plainly showed that he had not come to be a king in this world, like the one the disciples and the multitudes had been expecting. Instead, he told them he was a messiah who had come "to serve," and "to offer his own life as a ransom for many." Why? It was not because the main thing he had to overturn was the secular system of government as given by the Romans, or the religious system of government as given by the Jewish authorities. Not so, but what he had to overturn foremost was the composition of the disciples' hearts, [how they were built on the inside]. The Lord said, "The one who wants to be great among you will become a servant to everyone, the one who wants to be the highest will become a servant to everybody," (verse forty-five). The [hearts] most opposed to the kingdom of God are not the various evil powers in this world, but our own hearts when we refuse to become servants.

17. We believe Jesus is the messiah, the Christ. Indeed, he is the God anointed king, he is the one seated at the right hand of God the Father. But, we mustn't forget the figure of his by which others had met him on this earth, which is, the figure of a servant, the figure of a subordinate in service [to others]. King of kings, Lord of lords, he is, but he has served us. With his life he paid for our sins to redeem us. He bore our sin upon himself. We confess to him, "You are the messiah," and we are called to follow him [as the servant that he showed us to be].

 
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