The Cup of Jesus is Service

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b

Hebrews 5:1-10

Mark 10:35-45

It is important that we reread the verses which set up today’s reading. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” NIV This is the third time Mark records Jesus telling the Twelve what to expect.

And yet….

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” NET James was the first of the Twelve to die—about 10-12 years after the resurrection. But John lived some sixty years after the resurrection before he died of old age. In all that time John had to remember what he and his brother had done as they walked to Jerusalem. What a shame to have to bear for so long.

Why did they do it? It is helpful to remember Mark 3:17James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”)NLT The boys were what we might call today, social climbers, or up-and-comers. They knew they were destined for greatness and were never afraid to push their causes. That and their self-centeredness.

Jesus, on the other hand, had God’s plan on his mind. ‘I’m on my way to a hard death.’

Given that, look at how Jesus reacted to the Sons of Thunder. 36 He said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” NET Jesus knew what they wanted, yet he gave them the opportunity to do the right thing. They did not. 37 “Give us permission to sit one on each side of you in the glory of your kingdom!” Phillips

We must give them some credit for believing that Jesus was on his way to claim his kingdom, even if their ideas about that Kingdom were very small k.

38 Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?” MSG The Greek wording on baptism here uses only present tense, but clearly Jesus is looking ahead to his baptism on the cross; thus, The Message has the better translation.

Jesus did not get angry and berate the boys for their lack of understanding, nor did he call them Satan as he did with Peter. Even with his mind on far greater things, he treated them kindly. He said, ‘You have no idea what you ask.’

The boys missed his message. 39 They said to him, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I experience, 40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give. It is for those for whom it has been prepared.” NET

Jesus does not tell them that they will suffer all that Jesus will suffer. He does say that to walk in his footsteps will result in suffering. The cup of Jesus is a cup of service, not glory. The baptism is one of death. Only by dying can we have life.

Jesus cannot hand out privileges in Heaven to anyone on earth because that is up to God. Even if Jesus knows who would be on his right and left, he will not speak it here on earth.

41-45 When the other ten heard about this, they began to be highly indignant with James and John; so Jesus called them all to him, and said, “You know that the so-called rulers in the heathen world lord it over them, and their great men have absolute power. But it must not be so among you. No, whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be the slave of all men! For the Son of Man himself has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free.” Phillips

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Rich Christians

Image by S K from Pixabay 

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Psalm 22:1-15

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 10:17-31

We need to revisit the last three verses of last week’s lesson. You will see shortly why.

13 Some people brought their small children to Jesus so he could touch them. But his followers told the people to stop bringing their children to him14 When Jesus saw this, he was displeased. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them. The kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these little children15 I tell you the truth. You must accept the kingdom of God as a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it. 16 Then Jesus took the children in his arms. He put his hands on them and blessed themInternational Children’s Bible  

Jesus often told people that they were cured because they believed, they had faith, just like the little ones.

Now, we have a different picture.

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” ESV

This may not grab our attention, but there are several things for us to see and understand. First, Jewish men did not run, especially prominent, well-to-do men. Even 12 year old males were discouraged from running.

Second, he called Jesus, Teacher, but knelt. Students always stood in the presence of teachers.

Third, he called Jesus, good. We moderns do not see that as a problem, especially in reference to Jesus who was the definition of good, but it was not proper within Judaism.

Fourth, he wanted to do something to be guarantee his eternal inheritance. He seems to misunderstand the concept of inheritance. An inheritance is in the control of the giver, not the receiver.

That’s a lot of mistakes.

18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God aloneESV The Greek word is agathos, which happens to be the 18th word in the Greek NT Dictionary. A quick search of good in the ESV yields 690 verses in the Bible, nine of them in Mark. The surprise for me is that the word does not appear in Revelation.

Jesus reminds the young man that Jews are allowed to call God good, but not each other. Privately, Jesus might not reject it if one of his disciples called him good.

Jesus goes on. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” ESV 

Jesus is lobbing a softball for an easy hit. He says it up front: You know the commandments. For those of you who are keeping score, Jesus sneaks in an extra command—do not defraud. Actually, this may be a shorthand way of expressing the last three commands: You shall not steal.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.

In any case, it seems that Jesus knows the young man is on solid ground with this list. 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” ESV

Now comes the hardball, but it is softened a bit. 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” ESV

The word, loved, is agapao in Greek. It was a little used word until Christians latched onto it. The ancient Greeks used the word to suggest a high level of morality. The Greek word, agan, means much, and is a part of the meaning of agapao.

Jesus had to tell this eager young man to do what Jesus knew would be too hard for him. When Jesus called Peter, James, and John, we are not told that Jesus loved them. Nor are we told that they had to give up all they had to follow Jesus. They just dropped their nets and left the boats. For them, it was childish. It was faith. For this man, it was not a choice. He could not give up his wealth.

Now, go back to verses 13-16. You must accept the kingdom of God as a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it. Do you see why the young man had trouble? He ran to Jesus all excited. The emotions were fairly bubbling up. ‘I am nearly perfect. I keep all the commands. What one thing do I need to do?’

Why did Jesus not say, “All you need to do is believe.” Children believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Why could the young man not believe in Jesus?

Because he had to count the cost and he could not stand the loss.

Peter never looked back. He even said, ‘Where can we go?’ He did not count what he had as being worth more than Jesus. Even Matthew/Levi willingly gave up half of his wealth and would have (and may have) given it all.

One more point. The young man might have been willing to follow Jesus if he could have given all his wealth to his sons. The oldest son was responsible for the whole family, every close relative from grandparents to grandchildren. How could he leave them destitute? Surly he must see to their future.

Matthew kept some of his wealth. Andrew and Peter, James and John returned to their boats between resurrection and ascension.

The problem is, the young man never hurt anyone, but he also never did much good for anyone. Jesus challenged him to be willing to do the most good possible. He could not.

22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples“How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 

We have just seen that children have no trouble entering the Kingdom. Now, adults, at least rich adults, have no chance. No wonder the Disciples ask, “Then who can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” ESV

This long exchange leaves me thinking that the young man would not have had to give all he had to the poor anymore than any of the Disciples had to. He was not willing. That is the key. Give all you have to God and let God care for you.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence