Cross-Shaped Servanthood – Mark 10:32-52
Good morning! If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. If you can grab a Bible, we’re going to be in Mark 10:32-52, this morning.
After the government of Alberta declared a “state of public health emergency,” the Boyle Gospel Chapel made the decision to comply with the recommendations of the government and cancel our church services, until further notice. And what this means is that, until we hear from the government that we are safe to gather together, again, we will continue to comply with their recommendations.
We did not make this decision out of fear, but rather, out of love for our neighbour. We realized that one of the ways we could love our neighbour was to submit ourselves to the recommendations of the government of Alberta.
As Romans 13:1-5 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”
As a church, even though all of this seems weird to us, we are loving our neighbour by cancelling our services and postponing our events. And what that means is that we simply need to be creative about how we sing the Word of God, together, and how we hear the Word of God read and preached, together.
This is certainly not what we’re used to, and it’s going to require a fair amount of trial and error. Self-sacrificial love is always going to be inconvenient, but it’s in these moments that we can take advantage of some really good opportunities to live out gospel love for our neighbour.
There are going to be people and businesses in need, during this time. There are going to be ways that we can serve. There are going to be opportunities to share with people that Jesus is our only hope in life and death, as the Heidelberg Catechism says.
The world is watching how Christians are responding to what is going on around us. Throughout this quarantine and social distancing process, we have the opportunity to be a blessing to those around us, as we ourselves are blessed.
And the reason I say all of this is because, in our text, we’re going to see the example of Jesus about what a servant is, the example of the disciples about what a servant is not, and how the cross ought to be what shapes our lives.
That’s going to be our roadmap, for our time together, this morning. And my hope is that we might be a people who serve one another in love, as we ourselves have been served by our loving Saviour, Jesus Christ.
So, I’m just going to read our passage for us, and then we will dive in. Mark 10, beginning in verse 32: “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.’
“35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ 36 And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ 37 And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ 38 Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ 39 And they said to him, ‘We are able.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’ 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
“46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 49 And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.’ 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Rabbi, let me recover my sight.’ 52 And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.”
This morning, we are back in our sermon series in Mark, looking at Jesus—the Suffering Saviour and Conquering King. Now, if you’re watching this, and you haven't listened to any of the previous sermons in Mark, you can check them out later on our website at boylegospelchapel.ca/sermons. They’re all on there.
But we’re essentially concluding a section in Mark that goes all the way back to Mark 9:30-50, where Jesus taught on what the road to true greatness looks like. As we saw, true greatness is not found in my abilities or my accomplishments or my inner potential; true greatness is ultimately found in Jesus, who became a servant, and gave His life, so that we might have eternal life.
1. And so, our passage begins with the example of Jesus about what a servant looks like. If we want to be truly great, then we need to look at Jesus’ example.
Look at verse 32. Jesus is going up to Jerusalem, walking ahead of His disciples. Jesus knows exactly what awaits Him in Jerusalem. We’ve seen Jesus foretell His death and resurrection, twice now, and yet, Jesus continues to willingly make His way to the place where all of this would eventually happen to Him.
I have the imagery of Isaiah 53:7, in my head, which says, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
When I was younger, my parents thought it would be fun to buy some sheep—not a lot of sheep, just a few—so that we could try something new.
Our family wasn’t a farming family. My parents were raised on farms, but my whole life, my dad has been the pastor of a rural church. And so, we never really were the farming type. But my parents would try these little farming experiments. We got cows one year. Another year, we got rabbits. But then, my parents wanted to try sheep.
And I'm sure that the morning after we got these sheep, they regretted it. Those things started bleating at the crack of dawn, which was early, because it was getting to be summertime. And we would need to bottle feed them and give them their oats and all of these fun things that come with sheep.
But I remember how they would willingly follow me around wherever I went. I would spend a lot of time leading them around their pen, and they were always very interested in what I was doing. But then, the Fall came, and we brought our sheep to the Auction Mart, where they would be sold and eventually slaughtered.
And here in our text, we see a picture of Jesus, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world, willingly walking up to Jerusalem, where He would eventually be slaughtered. From the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus always had the cross before Him. He knew that His death was the necessary payment that must be made to reconcile God and man. And so, when the appointed time came, Jesus was ready and willing to suffer as our Saviour.
And look at the reaction of Jesus’ disciples. They’re amazed and afraid. They don’t know what to make of this situation, especially in light of what Jesus tells them, next. Jesus says that they're going up to Jerusalem, where He will be delivered over to the religious leaders, who will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Romans, who will eventually kill Him.
Those aren’t exactly the reassuring and comforting words that you want to hear from your leader. If you want to inspire confidence, that’s not necessarily the way to do it. And yet, it’s what His disciples and us need to hear.
But Jesus isn’t just teaching them these things; He’s actually living out what He’s saying. We have a word for people who say one thing and then do something entirely different: a hypocrite. And Jesus is no hypocrite. It’s not like Jesus is saying, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” and then, go and live a life of comfort and ease. No, Jesus is leading them to humility and suffering. Jesus is saying to them, “Hey, I’m going to the cross to die, and I’m bringing you with Me.”
And so, it’s maybe not the most encouraging word from Jesus to His followers, but it is what we need to hear, because if we are going to follow Jesus, then we need to go where He is going, and that’s to the cross.
But then, there is this comforting word from Jesus. Jesus says, talking about Himself, “And after three days he will rise.” And the good news is that Jesus didn’t stay dead. It’s not like all of these bad things happen to Jesus, and then He dies, and that’s the end of the story. No, Jesus is raised from the dead, in victory over sin and death, so that all those who put their trust in Jesus, though they die, will one day be raised to live and rule with Him, forever.
And this is how Jesus is modelling servanthood to us. You see, if I have submitted my life to Jesus, where I will eventually live forever with Jesus, because of what Jesus did on that cross, then I should be spending myself on this earth for others. If my hope is in Christ and the eternal life that is promised me, then I should be doing whatever I can to show love to my neighbour.
In this time of quarantine and social distancing, this can be a hard thing to do. I’ve written a few devotionals on this topic that are on our church Facebook page, that you can check out later, but what are some ways that we can be a neighbour to those around us? Jesus ultimately goes to the cross for His neighbours. Are we losing our lives for our neighbours, or are we saving our lives, instead?
These are excellent questions for us, as followers of Jesus, to think through. What does being a servant look like? Look no further than Jesus, who willingly suffered and died for us.
2. But then, immediately after we see this terrific example of Jesus, we see what a servant is not in the example of the disciples. If you want an example of how not to be a servant, look no further than the disciples of Jesus.
Look at verse 35. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come to Jesus and say to Him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Now, you just know that what’s coming is not going to be good. But Jesus, asks them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And James and John say to Jesus, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
Now, what's interesting about their request is that they are right to assume that Jesus is headed for glory, because that’s certainly where He is headed, but they're wrong to assume what that means for them.
They believe that Jesus will win in the end and will reign as King Jesus. That’s great. They even rightly understand that they will join Jesus in glory. In Matthew 19:28, Jesus says to His disciples that, “in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
But their problem is that they wanted more than that. You see, it’s not enough for James and John to simply have a throne in glory with Jesus; they wanted the two most honoured thrones—the ones sitting closest to Jesus.
And what this reveals is their complete lack of understanding what Jesus has been saying throughout His earthly ministry. They completely miss what Jesus just said a few minutes ago about where He was going and what was going to happen to Him. They are so self-serving that they make Jesus’ glory about them.
This is worse than what John said earlier, in Mark 9:38, about trying to stop an unnamed man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, because he wasn’t following them. This is an attitude that is focused so solely on self, that it would have been offensive even to the rest of the disciples.
And Jesus is quick to correct the brothers. Jesus says to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And their response is, “We are able.”
These guys are quick to claim the benefits of the kingdom of God, but slow to hear the cost of participating in it. And so, Jesus gives James and John a couple of illustrations to show the costliness of participating in the kingdom of God.
There's a cup that Jesus would drink. In the Old Testament, the cup of the Lord is a picture of the wrath of God against sin. This would be the cup that Jesus refers to, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus says, “Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” It’s the cup of God’s wrath against sin—a cup Jesus would drink to its bitter end, as He would take our place and become our substitute on the cross.
Jesus would take all our sin and all our wrongdoing upon Himself, and the wrath of holy God would be poured down upon Him, and for the first time in all eternity, the Son of God would be separated from the Father, so that Jesus doesn’t cry out, “Father,” but rather, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
We cannot begin to imagine what it must have felt like for Jesus to drink that cup, and to be forsaken by His Father, and to be accursed like the wicked. Jesus says, “Can you drink of that cup? Can you drink of the cup which is your own sin and guilt? Can you drink of the cup of God’s wrath against your sin?” “Sure, we can,” they say. And Jesus says, “You don’t know what you're saying. You don’t know what you're agreeing to.”
How about the baptism with which Jesus would be baptized? We think of baptism as a positive thing. In baptism, we are identifying ourselves with Christ in front of God and His church. It’s a glorious time for the follower of Jesus. But what are we identifying with Christ in, by being baptized? His death and resurrection.
We are immersed to symbolize His death, and we are brought up out of the water to symbolize His resurrection. We die to sin, and we are raised to new life in Christ. The act of baptism resembles what Jesus would experience at the cross.
And Jesus says to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
Jesus can’t do anything about their request to sit beside Him in glory, but Jesus does inform them that the road to true greatness is always a road of suffering. Before Jesus can be the Conquering King, He must become the Suffering Saviour. And the same is true for those who follow Him.
In some measure, the disciples would indeed drink the cup and would indeed be baptized. None of them die well. Some were crucified, some were killed with the sword, some were stoned. Only John dies a natural death, but only after he escapes unharmed after being cast into boiling oil and banished on an island.
They would indeed join Jesus in His kingdom, but they must first understand the cost. Jesus says, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”
The rest of the disciples are angry with James and John, not because they thought James and John spoke foolishly, but because they didn’t think of it, first. They’re angry with the brothers, because they too wanted to be great. But what Jesus is getting them and us to see is that greatness looks different in God’s economy than it does in the world.
According to the world, the more important you are, the more people who serve you. This world is driven by a lust for power and position. The goal is to be as great as you can possibly be and to gain as many followers as you possibly can.
We see an example of this, in 1 Corinthians 1. The church in Corinth was a very divisive group of believers, to the point that each one of them was following their own leader, trying to outdo one another. Some were saying, “I follow Paul;” some were saying, “I follow Apollos;” some were saying, “I follow Cephas;” and then you had the really high and mighty Christians, who were like, “I follow Christ.” Like, who isn’t follow Christ, guys, come on.
But these guys had missed the point of the kingdom of God. It wasn’t about lording our position over others, but rather, it’s about bringing others along with us as we follow Christ. It’s why the apostle Paul, later in 1 Corinthians, says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” It’s not like Paul is the greatest Christian in history, but he understands his position and his need for Jesus. Do we?
Jesus says, “All of this lusting after power and position, that’s what the world does. That’s not what followers of Jesus do.” In the economics of the kingdom of God, greatness is not based on power and position, but on service and giving. The kingdom of God is for those who give their lives for others. It’s for those who recognize that they are, first and foremost, a slave and servant of all.
And Jesus gives us this reminder again, and I’ve quoted it several times in this series, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
With this example of Jesus before us, and with the example of the disciples to learn from, we can see the importance of serving one another in love.
3. But then, there is one more illustration for us that really drives this home, and it’s the healing of this blind man named Bartimaeus. And what this miracle does is it shows us how the cross should shape our lives.
Look at verse 46. Jesus is walking with His disciples and this great crowd of people, when all of a sudden a guy by the name of Bartimaeus starts calling out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He must have heard that Jesus was coming by, and knew a little bit about this Jesus and the kind of miracles He performed. After all, Jesus has already healed one blind man, back in Mark 8, so here’s to hoping that He might do it, again, right?
And so, Bartimaeus is calling out to Jesus. But those around him are telling him to be quiet. And what's interesting about this is that Bartimaeus’ name literally means, “son of honour,” but right now he isn’t receiving any honour from those around him. He is marginalized and relegated to the side of the road.
And he calls, again, louder this time, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Son of David” was a term in the Old Testament used to refer to God’s promise to King David, that a future son would come from David’s line who would have an everlasting kingdom. This blind man has correctly identified Jesus as this promised King, but everyone around him doesn’t seem to care.
But Jesus stops and calls the blind man to Him. And Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and makes his way to Jesus. Now, notice that Jesus asks him the same question that he asked James and John: “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s the exact same question, but the answer is radically different.
You see, James and John wanted the best seats in the house. They wanted to be in the places of honour, next to Jesus. Do you know what Bartimaeus wants? He says to Jesus, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” Bartimaeus just wants to be able to see. It’s nothing extraordinary. He’s not asking for glory. He’s not asking for the best seat in the house. He just wants to see Jesus.
And Jesus says to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” This isn’t some kind of prosperity gospel teaching. This isn’t saying that Bartimaeus had enough faith to be healed. Jesus, out of the goodness of His grace, healed Bartimaeus, and by faith, Bartimaeus received it and was made well.
Bartimaeus was healed physically, but I also believe he was healed spiritually, that day. How do I know? Look at what he does, next. Jesus tells him to go his way, but he doesn’t. He could have easily gone and done what he had been wanting to do but couldn’t because of his blindness. But instead, do you know what he does? He follows Jesus “on the way.” And where is Jesus going? He’s on the way to Jerusalem to give His life on the cross as a ransom for many. And here is Bartimaeus, following Jesus on the way to the cross.
It’s like John 6:68, after Jesus had given His followers some hard teaching, and almost everyone turns back from following Him, Jesus asks His disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” And they respond, by saying to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
We see here the correct response to Jesus in the face of whatever is going on around us. It’s a response that is shaped by the cross. Are we following Jesus “on the way”?
Jesus is showing us that this is what being a servant looks like. It’s about service and giving and stooping down to help the lowest of the low, but ultimately, it’s about going to the cross. And if this is where Jesus goes, if He sacrificed His life for many, then this must be our cross-shaped response, as well.
Like I said, earlier, the world is watching how followers of Jesus are responding during these times. Ultimately, we serve and give and spend ourselves for the glory of God, that others might see our lives and be drawn to Jesus.
I found an illustration of this that I thought was pertinent. “In June 1999 American flight 1420 crashed on landing in Little Rock, Arkansas. Among the 145 passengers were 25 students from Ouachita Baptist University who had been on concert tour. When the plane crash landed, it split in two allowing many to escape quickly. The plane also immediately caught fire. Tragically, but gratefully only 9 persons died. One was an Ouachita student named James Harrison. A strapping 21 year-old saxophonist, student, and part-time music minister from Paragould, Arkansas, James never left the plane. He had been seated in the right rear and joined a line of people moving to the exits. Then he stepped aside. Witnesses say they saw and heard him helping others, including a burn victim, to get out first. Everyone assumed he finally also had left. Only later was he discovered missing. He apparently was overcome by smoke and perished. He always was known for helping others, said Allison Hunt, his singing partner for two years. ‘He gave up his life so that others might live.’”
This is where we encounter the good news of Jesus. You see, we all have sinned against a holy God, and as such, we are deserving of condemnation. But God, in His goodness and mercy, made a way for us to be saved. God sent His Son, Jesus, to this world, and Jesus satisfied the wrath of God against sin. He’s the only One who could. He gave up His life, so that all those who put their trust in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.
That’s good news. That’s what's offered to us by the grace of God. It’s certainly not what we deserve. What we rightly deserve is condemnation. And yet, God in His wisdom has made the way to life, possible. It’s like the healing of Bartimaeus. The healing of our spiritual blindness has been offered to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. We simply need to accept it by faith.
This world is like that burning plane. Sooner or later, our time on this earth will be over. We don’t know when that will be. We don’t know if we have the rest of today, let alone, tomorrow. But if we have not trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we will be headed for a lost eternity.
This is a very sobering passage of Scripture. It calls on us today to ask some very solemn questions: Do we want to be a disciple of Jesus? If you have never made a decision to follow Jesus, I encourage you to do so, today. Don’t let another day go by.
What is our measure of greatness? Do we want to be great in the eyes of the world, or do we want to be great in the kingdom of God? Jesus says that if we want to be truly great, then we must be willing to become less, serving one another in love.
This is going to require dependence upon Jesus. We won't be able to love our neighbour like Jesus does, if we are doing it in our own power and strength. We need to die to ourselves and our selfishness and our pride, and allow the Holy Spirit of God to work in our hearts and our minds to go where Jesus is going and to do what Jesus is doing in this world. But only by His grace in us.
May we have eyes to see the beauty of Christ our Saviour, and may we be a blessing to those around us, as we ourselves have been so richly blessed in Christ Jesus. Let’s pray…