top of page

Mark 10:35-45

Only in Christian circles can we make a game or competition around who is the “servant of all!” You might even make the case that we’ve made “improving your serve” into just another score-keeping sport at times. I can remember each and every youth competition we engaged in, if you didn’t happen to win there was always a quick recitation of, “well the last shall be first!” Fortunately enough, if you win the race you get the “worldly prize of glory,” and if you lose you get the “church prize!” Win-win, right? While its one thing to have some laughs as a youth learning what it means to be Christian, the unfortunate bit is it often seems that we don’t outgrow the games.

I can’t help but still recognize much of this in the church structure today. The pedestals that we seem to only give pastors and leaders of larger congregations to the ways we measure success even at the local levels within our work. If we’re honest, I think we ourselves are still doing a good deal of missing the point.

James and John, those rascal brothers, they’re trying to get “box seats” in the kingdom to come! I love that in Matthew’s version (20:20-28) it’s their mother who audaciously asks Jesus about her sons sitting next to Jesus in his glory. Which completely sounds like something my mother would attempt! Yet, interestingly in Mark there is no mother involved here, but the question remains the same.

“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

What is the motivation here? It would seem that James and John are still giving lessons in “missing the point.”

Worldly glory seeks to be seen.

King of heaven glory seeks to see.

Jesus says, oh you’ll get your chance at drinking the cup, but the end result won’t be the kind of glory you may be seeking. But loving and serving will give way to true glory.

The pericope in Mark 10:32-34 sits directly before these verses almost to say just how much the disciples were somehow not “getting it.” “They will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.” How much more direct can Jesus get? The gospels continually testify to us just how much Jesus disciples never truly expected the gruesome realities that lie ahead of their journey into Jerusalem, and the true cost of discipleship.

How is it that even in the church we still might get a little lost in seeking to sit next to the Christ? Is it possible that still today we aren’t fully coming face to face with the kind of true downward mobility Jesus is leading us into? Looking back further into Mark 10 we see Jesus’ interaction with the wealthy man who can do everything to follow Jesus except the one: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Clearly, the author is climaxing to offer his readers a clear image of exactly where following this Jesus will take us.

Are we really okay with this sort of kingdom? Are we okay with not being seen? Can we do great acts of service and not tell anyone? Can we find ourselves loving the sweet little lady down the street even if no one will ever know about it? Are we fine with washing the feet of anyone in our community even if we’ll never get to count those numbers?

I wonder sometimes if we don’t appreciate the “let your light shine” passage just a little bit more than the “don’t let your right hand know what your left is doing?”

In the end, Jesus reiterates that even if we do drink the cup, even if we are washed in his baptism, the glory is not his to give. If you’re looking for glory, you’re already missing the whole thing. If you’re inquiring about the glory, you’re already looking in the wrong direction. It would seem instead that seeking God means surrendering anything resembling glory…

Trekking back even further in chapter 10, behind the wealthy man who couldn’t leave his riches behind, are verses 13-16 when Jesus embraces children. It is important to remember that children at this time had virtually no rights and were certainly not supposed to interrupt the teaching of a Rabbi. Jesus reveals, “it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

I’m not sure that there is any way to preach Mark 10 today without time for confession. In the end, we all likely have some confessing to do here. Should we leave space for some grieving of the ways we’ve all missed the point?

Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” What does it look like to model this for our congregations in each one of our contexts today? In our liturgy? In our sitting? With our children? In participating in the eucharist? Poetic imagination is required.

We are continually faced with the question that I heard Rev. Kerry Willis pose many years ago, “do you want to do something great for God? Or do you want to see God in his greatness?”