Mark 10:35

As we read the history of our Lord's dealings with his disciples, we are amazed at his unfaltering patience. They had preconceived theories about his kingdom which, in spite of his teaching, they held fast till after his death and resurrection. They constantly expected him to assume temporal power. Why he delayed they did not know; the reason for his present obscurity they could not conceive; but to all his allusions to suffering they gave, and were resolved to give, a figurative interpretation. With all this persistent misconception our Lord was patient. In this he has left us an example of the patience we should cherish towards those who, as we think, misunderstand the truth. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were two of the favored triumvirate, and their mother, Salome, was a near relation of the Virgin Mary. It was she who expressed the request of her sons, first asking for an unconditional promise - such as a Herod might give, but our Lord never. The Old Testament counterpart of this scene is the coming of Rebekah, with her son Jacob, to win the blessing of the firstborn.


1. It was the offspring of ignorance. They littleknew what it would be to stand on the right hand and on the left of their Lord in the day when the word would be fulfilled, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Well might he say, "Ye know not what ye ask." We often set our desires on some object which is vain or wrong. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought;" and sometimes we learn by a bitter experience that it is best to put ourselves trustfully in God's hands. Lot found it so. Of the Israelites, too, it is said, "God gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul."

2. It was the dictate of ambition. Ambition is a wholesome stimulus, if only it is free from selfishness. A teacher can do little with a child who is always satisfied with the lowest position in the class. If your ambition be a lawful one it will not allow you to shirk difficulties, or to get over an obstacle by a doubtful expedient, but it will lead you to a patient and faithful doing of what your hand finds to do. You will go higher, as you faithfully fulfill the duties of the lower sphere. Ask yourself whether the object you are aiming at is worthy of a Christian man; whether the time spent in its pursuit could be better employed; whether God or self is supreme in the motives which are prompting effort, etc. Ambition can be and ought to be tested. Some people are like precious stones, glittering, but non-productive; others are like the plainer millstones, which, by steadfast work, minister food to the hungry and wealth to the nation.

3. It was the outcome of selfishness. One of the best tests we have of the lawfulness of ambition is this question - How does it affect my feelings towards others? There is reason to fear that the idea of these disciples was that the chief places in the kingdom should be allotted to them, regardless of the claims of their brethren. No wonder, then, that they were rebuked by their Lord, and that when the ten heard it they had great indignation. Self-seeking ever tends to separate friends, and to arouse discord in the Christian Church. Selfishness is the root of the indolence that dishonors the disciples of Christ; it is the cause of civil dissensions; it is the spring of the bloody wars that desolate the world; and when it asserts itself in sectarianism it checks the advance of Christ's kingdom, and brings upon the Church paralysis and death. Against it Christ Jesus declared ruthless war. He declared that men must deny themselves if they would follow him; he taught us to love our enemies, and still more our neighbors, and said that if a man would be really great, he must minister to others for his sake.

II. THE REPLY OF OUR LORD. He pointed out the distinction between real greatness and seeming greatness, and declared that dignity in his kingdom was bestowed according to a certain law - the law of moral fitness. A similar law asserts itself everywhere in God's economy. Each plant and animal have their own habitat, and for their well-being we are compelled to study those conditions which the Creator designed for them. The disciples supposed that honor was at the arbitrary disposal of the Lord on the ground of personal favor. It was so with the positions held under the Roman government. The favor of an emperor might appoint a Pontius Pilate Procurator of Judaea, in complete disregard of character and suitability. It was not to be so in Christ's Church, whether on earth or in heaven. There would be distinctions of rank and honor, but they would be given by God to those worthy of dignity, and fit for it. In the kingdom of righteousness nothing would be arbitrary, or dependent upon caprice. To some extent this is so in the attainment of knowledge. Knowledge cannot be given by a teacher because a pupil is a favourite, or because a pupil wishes to be first among competitors; but it is the reward of individual work and consequent fitness. And greatness in heaven will not consist in so many pleasures or dignities, but in the enjoyment of so much life, in the developments of power and in the possibilities of service. These, then, are some of the principles laid down in our Lord's reply:

1. Prepared places are for prepared people. (Ver. 40.)

2. Humble ministry is the source of highest exaltation. (Vers. 43, 44.)

3. Christ's mission is the pattern of Christian service. (Ver. 45.) - A.R.

Master, we would that Thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shalt desire.
I. SELF-SEEKING. It is a plausible maxim of this world which says: "Every man for himself." Prominent places are secured by those who seek them diligently, with shrewd management and artful manoeuvering. Why should not this principle be extended into the next world, and our prudence take merely a little longer range in looking out for the main chance? Many people seem to have convinced themselves that in striving to outdo one another they are simply obeying a necessary law — the law of emulation; and have much to say about the wholesomeness of competition. In this narrative we see what effect self-seeking had on the disciples.

1. It blinded their eyes to the glory of the Son of God. Men seeking conspicuous places cannot understand the mind which was in Christ Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation, and humbled Himself to the cross. What could they know of His going up to Jerusalem? They saw only thrones and kingdoms. A self-seeking spirit cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

2. It plunged the disciples into a quarrel on the eve of a great occasion. It converts the world into a place of violence.

3. It put the disciples into a false attitude off presumption, undertaking more than they were able to. "They say unto Him, We are able." In a strength greater than their own they were indeed to drink of His cup; but only after learning their own weakness.

4. The spirit of self-seeking confused their notions of dominion. They had adopted the maxims of the Gentiles, and were in danger of believing that a man was great simply because he exercised authority. Position does not make the man.

II. SELF-SACRIFICE — "Whosoever will be great among you," etc.

1. The courage of self-sacrifice — "We go up to Jerusalem." It shrinks from no danger.

2. The universality of self-sacrifice. Each man is to become like the Man Christ Jesus.

3. The reward of self-sacrifice.

4. The kingdom of self-sacrifice. Power to bless and rule.

(E. B. Mason.)

It is clear that the whole passage we are to study today arranges itself easily around these three particulars: the fact of which they were aware, the counsel which He wished to add to it, and the argument from the one with which He proposed to enforce the other (see also Matthew 20:25-28).

I. What they knew was this: in all the forms of government around them, ecclesiastical or political, with which they were acquainted, the principle of "lordship" held sway.

1. In those times the prominent matter of notice was a tremendous hierarchy in the Jewish Church, and a domineering aristocracy in the Roman government. The ancient people of God had travestied His word, and perverted His ordinances, and forfeited His favour. The "rulers" usurped authority everywhere in matters of faith and conscience. They destroyed the revelation from heaven by overlaying of human traditions. And as they continued to grow unrighteous, they began to grow oppressive. And surely, those Jewish disciples needed only to be reminded of the hateful superciliousness of the Roman empire that was holding their nation in captivity. They did indeed know that their "great ones exercised authority upon them."

2. In our times the picture is quite like the old one in every point. Leave men to themselves, and the systems they are sure to construct will be centralized and monarchical. The common people will be dominated by lords, and the lords will have dukes, and the dukes will be put under a king. The one principle of organization is, that each one will try to monopolize position and power, and, by crowding down all he can beneath him, will seek to elevate himself into rule over the masses. Louis of France only uttered the universal sentiment when he gave his word to history: he was reminded that there was a State which ought to be considered: "L'etat! c'est moi!" was his answer: "The State! I am the State!" Look at the Papal Church, or the Greek Church. There are the poor worshippers that pray and pay and obey their leaders. Over these are the priests, then the prelates, then the archbishops, and ecclesiastics without number, narrowing in and rising up till they reach the patriarch or the pope. And even the tiara has its triple crown, running straight up to one point.

3. In all times this is almost inevitably the same. For unregenerate human nature is selfish and domineering. This is what "ye know." The best figure of this is a pyramid. Builders construct these masses of solid stone out of blocks. They place the lowest layer on almost a half acre of land. After a base is made, they draw in a step on every side, then rise for a new layer; then narrow in, and rise again. So the structure lifts itself aloft till the apex crowns it with a single stone. The people are at the bottom; the artisans, the paupers, the slaves, the great wrestling toilers, whom everybody proposes to live upon and domineer over, if he can. Then there come landholders and monopolists and capitalists. After this, we expect to find some aristocrats, with titles, and entails of primogeniture. So we reach what are called nobles; and so on indefinitely, all working towards a pinnacle at the top.

II. This, Christ says, "ye know;" and now He adds to it a counsel of His own: "so it shall not be among you" (Mark 5:43).

1. He surprised His followers by relinquishing the "lordship "and disclaiming the "authority." We must be careful to notice that He did not forbid ambition as a motive; He sought only to direct it into a new exercise (Mark 10:44). He did not say it was wrong to wish to be "chiefest," but told them that a Christian should desire to be chief servant to all.

2. He suggested that the humblest service constituted the highest dignity (Mark 10:44).

3. Thus He completely reverses the whole notion of those who looked for lordship. Let us come back to the figure which we just left. The "chief" should be at the base, the "servant" of all those above.

III. Now we are ready to notice the argument with which Jesus enforces His extraordinary counsel: He offers Himself as an example for absolute imitation (Mark 10:45). Consider the plain fact in this case. Let us turn to a passage in one of Paul's Epistles (2 Corinthians 8:9).

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

This was Christ's eternal principle, "the truest supremacy is the most faithful service to men." The view of Christianity which looks upon religion as an excellent way of "getting something," is, we trust, fast dying out. Christ removed the question of getting to the level of enduring and doing. The most irresistible power in the world is the power of unselfishness. Is self-sacrifice possible, when self-sacrifice is, in reality, self-gain? These two disciples proved to be, although they little expected it, perfect types of that of which our Lord was speaking. James was the first apostle to receive the crown of martyrdom. John's martyrdom was that of living; he was the last of the apostles to die. Learn the divineness of a life of service. "Whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all." The natural idea of the untutored mind is that a man in supreme power would rule and please himself. Qualifications for serving are becoming to be the badge of governing. What a world of thought we suddenly reach, when we strike the flint of one text with the steel of another text, and a Divine spark is emitted, which lights up our system with the Christ-like principle of the divinity of eternal usefulness! Is it not a part of that stupendous truth, that nothing can live eternally except that which is useful and good? All nature is teaching us this lesson; plants, and animals, and men, and nations, are disappearing and dying out unless they can give a favourable answer to the searching question, "Art thou useful? Art thou of any service to God or to man?" What a magnificent view this gives of man's magnificent share in the universe! The worlds are hastening along in their prescribed courses — suns are forming — spheres are whirling in ordered procession through space: in what we call the chaos of nature there is no chaos: seas, and continents, and air, and clouds, are daily growing up and evolving; every star, every leaf, every creature that lives is busy, and is helping to roll the Great Universe along — and nature, if asked, "Art thou useful?" must reply, "Yea, every grain and every molecule, every breath and every atom, all are contributing to the order and the usefulness of God's system!" What is nature? Nature is an aggregation and a development of the eternally fit and useful. So also man's test must be this test of fitness too, and we may even go farther, and declare our belief that prospective material rewards are sometimes misleading in the way they are usually interpreted. Man's highest reward must be perfect cooperation with, union with, and knowledge of the eternal God. When God's purposes become man's purposes, God's aims man's aims, God's spirit and essence man's spirit and essence; then we shall not find men clamouring for seats upon golden thrones, but we shall hear them ask, "How can I combine with God to further the purposes of man and of God?" for both these are identical. Or, to use our Saviour's phrase, we shall hear men ask, "How can I drink of the cup which Christ drank of?" The eternally useful need not, of course, be the eternally assertive or prominent. Many careers of usefulness there are, which are perhaps more of enduring than of acting. To endure, in many circumstances, is, in a sense, to act.

(A. H. Powell, M. A.)


1. The emptiness of earthly greatness.

2. Contentment in our situation.

II. The Son of Man came "TO MINISTER" From this we learn —

1. To be diligent in doing good.

2. To condescend to the meanest acts of kindness.

III. The Son of Man came "TO GIVE HIS LIFE A RANSOM FOR MANY." It teaches —

1. The deplorable condition of sinners.

2. The amazing compassion of the Saviour.

3. The subject encourages our application to Him, and dependence on Him as the Saviour.

4. The subject stimulates us to seek diligently the salvation of others.

(T. Kidd.)

A minister having accepted a cordial invitation to the pastorate of a Church, was visited by a lady, who said, "Sir, this Church, of which you are now unhappily the minister, is composed of such materials that you must either be its tyrant or its slave; which office will you select?" He answered, "Its servant, for Jesus Christ's sake." Not rendering service to please this one or the other, not giving forth dull tones to soothe the slumbering souls of those that love to sleep, not selecting dainty sentences of polite speech (polished swords that will not out), hoping to win the admiration and commendation of those that sit in the well-cushioned pews; but a servant, and the servant of the Church for Jesus Christ's sake. Our highest relationship to God is a relationship of service; it ranks above sonship, because it is the fruit of adoption; love in action.

Men of the world would prefer to say, "I am among you, not as one who serves, but as one who rules. I live quite independent of the authority of any superior." There is a natural revolt against dependence on another as something derogatory to the dignity of manhood. This revolt against rule, this chafing against the idea of interdependence, is founded on an utter misapprehension. If God is Creator, and we creatures, we are forced to concede the whole question at issue. There can be but one independent existence; man's ignorance renders interdependence impossible. Again, he is a servant, and not a ruler, because of the physical laws which environ him. Man is equally impotent to resist the operation of moral law. The servant of these laws secures his highest well-being. The men who have been servants are the regnant men of the world. "Moses, my servant." David cries, "Truly I am Thy servant." Elijah says, "Whom I serve." The whole life of Christ on earth was the demonstration of the truth of the text: "He came not to be ministered unto." There was but one way in which He could derive new glory, and that was by service and sacrifice. All crowns were already His, save one, and that one was the crown of thorns. After this who will venture to call service derogatory to the dignity of manhood, when even the glory of Godhead derives new lustre from this matchless display of condescending grace? The spectacle of the great Lord of All shrinking from no office, however menial, whereby humanity might be cleansed and elevated and ennobled, has given a new ideal to the world. A new form of beauty rises on the vision of mankind. A new standard of greatness is established by the authority of the Highest. "He that would be chief among you, let him be the servant of all." These are creative words. Out of them have come the philanthropies, the benevolent enterprises which the pious ingenuity of the Church has devised for the relief of suffering humanity, the sweet charities which minister to the physical and spiritual wants of the world. They are revolutionary words. They have reversed the judgments of men, and reconstructed public opinion as to what constitutes true greatness.

(M. D. Hoge, D. D.)

Dr. Chalmers was great when he presided over the General Assembly of his church, and when he lectured in the Divinity Hall from his professor's chair, and when he electrified vast audiences by his power in the pulpit all over Scotland, but never did he attract more reverential admiration or loving regard than when he was seen walking through the dark "closes" and filthy lanes of Edinburgh, with ragged children clinging to his fingers and to his skirts, as he led them out and gathered them into the schools he had organized for their benefit.

(M. D. Hoge, D. D.)

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