[Mark 10:32a] “Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid.”
Scene of Activity
Jesus is on a direct and deliberate journey to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.
“Going up” - indicates Jesus was on the final leg of the journey.
Jerusalem was situated in the Judean Mountains.
Traveling from the Mediterranean: Jerusalem was 2,490 ft above sea level.
Traveling from the Dead Sea: Jerusalem was 3,800 ft about sea level.
The Dead Sea sat approximately 1,384 ft below sea level.
20 miles separated the Dead Sea and Jerusalem making the journey difficult.
Context: Stone Mountain has an elevation of 1,686 ft.
Context: Lookout Mountain has an elevation of 2,393 ft.
Jesus has been traveling with a multitude (the 12 plus the Jews from Galilee), but Mark notates a change. Jesus is now out in front of the crowd leading the way up to Jerusalem.
We’re also told there is now something different about His demeanor.
“And Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed.”
His step was indeed quick with an evident determination.
The result: “They were amazed.... and afraid.”
B-Sides: If Jesus is going before you, you’ll never have a reason to fear!
[Mark 10:32b] “Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
This is the third time Jesus prophesied concerning His death and resurrection.
Note: There is a significant difference between a prediction and a prophecy.
“The general purpose of prophecy and prediction is the same: to tell what will happen in the future. However, their source of authority for this information is very different. Prophecy relies on the authority of God-given information and supernatural revelation. True prophecy is therefore never wrong because it always carries the authority of God's truth and character. On the other hand, a prediction is based on man's ability to determine what may happen in the future. Predictions are sometimes right but often wrong because it depends on man’s limited prognostication ability.”
Jesus is saying what was about to occur in Jerusalem with complete certainty: “The Son of Man will be betrayed,” “They will condemn and deliver Him,” “They will mock, scourge, spit, and kill Him.” “He will rise again.”
In each of these three occasions Jesus includes new details.
1. Mark 8:31, “Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders.... be killed, and after three days rise again.”
2. Mark 9:31, “The Son of Man is being betrayed.”
3. Jesus gets incredibly specific:
A) The Jewish leaders would “condemn Him to death,” but they would have to “deliver Him to the Gentiles (Romans)” to be put to death.
Josephus recorded that 20 years before this event (in response to a rebellion) the Romans made it illegal for the Jews to execute their own.
Which explains why Jesus was crucified as opposed to being stoned.
Side Point: Revoking the ability to invoke the death penalty was a bid deal.
In Genesis 49, Jacob had prophesied that the “scepter should not depart from Judah till Shiloh had come.”
B) Romans would “mock Him, scourge Him, spit on Him, and kill Him.”
2 Simple Observations:
1. Jesus is in total control. He knows what’s awaiting Him in Jerusalem.
2. Knowing His fate, Jesus still moved towards Jerusalem with resoluteness.
Luke’s account reiterates that even at this point in the narration the disciples still don’t understand what Jesus is trying to communicate to them.
B-Sides: Sometimes we over complicate what Jesus is trying to say to us!
[Mark 10:35-37] “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” (Quite a request.) And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
Context: As they make their way to Jerusalem the disciple still don’t understand what Jesus was going there to accomplish.
They’re expecting Jesus to lead a revolution against the tyrannical Roman occupiers!
Assuming a coming victory and the inevitable establishment of the kingdom, James and John decide it’s time to make a play for the important cabinet positions.
Like it is with Survivor.... the smartest move is often completely about timing!
Matthew tells us they included their mother in this tactical, political maneuver.
Note: Salome was the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus.
This means James and John were cousins of Jesus and John the Baptist.
I can hear them saying, “Jesus we’re family. You can trust us!”
[Mark 10:38-40] “But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”
Admittedly, this is one of the more complicated sections of Scripture to decipher.
Let’s start with what we know for sure about this text:
1. Jesus prophesies that 2 things “will indeed” happen to James and John.
A) “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink....”
“Cup” - Greek word “potêrion” - Two ways to read this:
1. A literal cup you drink out of.
2. Metaphor describing an experience God presents one to drink.
Note: Jesus will pray in the garden in Mark 14:36, “Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
With this in mind it seems likely Jesus was predicting that James and John would share in the similar rejection and suffering He was about to endure.
James was the first apostle to die by the sword of Herod Agrippa.
John was the last to die of natural causes, but not before being boiled alive and being exiled to the death camp Island of Patmos.
B) “With the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized....”
“Baptism I am baptized” - literally, “the immersion I am immersed in.”
3 Theories as to what Jesus could be referring too:
- Jesus could still be speaking of His suffering.
- Jesus could be speaking of death and burial.
Jesus could be referring to the power of the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus had asked, “are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.”
“Are able” - “dynamai” - “power of one’s own ability.”
Contrast: In Acts 1:8 Jesus told the disciples they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
“Power” - “dynamis” - “power exceeding one’s own ability.”
“Upon” - Greek preposition “epi” - “to come upon or over.”
This event is what we refer to as the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” which is the empowering of the Holy Spirit for a specific task.
I believe Jesus is saying these men would not only suffer as He was about to suffer, but that they would also be baptized with the necessary power to endure and persevere as He would do.
Though they thought they were “able” to fulfill the mission Jesus had laid before them, Jesus knew they would need the “power of the Holy Spirit.”
B-Sides: If Jesus Himself utilized the power of the Holy Spirit, then how much more do we need the same filling?
2. Then Jesus makes a fascinating statement.... “But to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”
I understand the point: Jesus is telling them not to worry about their position in the Kingdom and instead focus on simply being obedient to the King.
I don’t understand the particulars: I have no idea what Jesus meant by “not Mine to give” and “for whom it is prepared.”
I like how Eugene Peterson paraphrase this verse, “But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”
[Mark 10:41] “And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.”
Q: Why were they so upset with James and John?
A: They were upset they hadn’t thought of this first.
[Mark 10:42-45] “But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Since the topic has reverted back to position within the kingdom, Jesus takes the opportunity to reiterate a lesson on servanthood and how it relates to the kingdom.
To illustrate His point, Jesus set’s up a comparison and contrast.
Q: How does the world measure greatness?
A: By how many people serve you.
“You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
Q: How will the kingdom measure greatness?
A: By how many people you serve.
“Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.
The Kingdom of God is a reverse pyramid to the traditional way in which the world evaluates a person’s power and influence.
Jesus’ life and mainly death was the greatest example of this truth!
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
If you’re looking for a theme verse for the Gospel of Mark look no further.
It’s not an accident that the last two times Jesus spoke of His death the disciples responded by debating who would be the greatest in the Kingdom.
I think it’s fitting for the greatest demonstration of greatness we’ve ever seen on earth was found in the reality that Jesus willingly “gave His life as a ransom for many.”