“On Your Mark”
Cost of Greatness (Chapter 10 Verses 35-45)
The mother of James and John according to Matthew’s account was the instigator of this request (v37). Was this preempted by Jesus speaking of his glory (vv32-34)? Is their picture of a great throne room with Jesus in the centre and them on either side, and everyone else ministering to them, a carnal one? Do they really understand what is meant by his glory (Mark 10.45; Philippians 2.5-11). However, the request sanctified, purified would be a good one, for a mother to wish her children to be servants of Jesus is a good desire indeed. Their affirmative answer to the Lord’s question (vv38-39a), draws some enlightenment from the Lord (v39b). Normally speaking they do not expect enough of and from Jesus, but here they are asking too much, they requested what was not his to give them. What they want is good, but it is the pathway, they do not begin to understand the cost. The cup of course is Jesus baptism of suffering (John 18.11; Matthew 26.39, 42; Mark 14.36), and the drinking of it is to accept and endure it (Hebrews 12.1-3). It is this road to greatness that is so misunderstood by them, deepest humility (Luke 14.11), the spiritual nature of the Kingdom is a reversal of the world’s terms of greatness.
The things we ask the Lord for as young Christians? We can (v39b), they say. The ignorance revealed in the answer is mind-boggling. They just want to make a deal, get the contract signed, and we will think about the finer details rest later. Jesus showing great patience informs them they will indeed share in his sufferings (1Peter 4.13; 2Corinthians 4.10). Their drinking of the same cup does not mean their sufferings will be on a par with that of Jesus, his was distinctive, propitiatory, atoning for the sins of the world (1John 2.1), which only Jesus the Lamb of God could do (John 1.29). And it is not a guarantee that they will be martyred, some will yes, like James (Acts 12.2), but not John (Revelation 1.9). Some would be imprisoned (Acts 4.3, 21; 5.18), some would be whipped (Acts 5.40), their lives endangered (Acts 5.33), and even exiled (Revelation 1.9). The Apostle Paul excelled them all in terms of suffering (2Corintians 11.23-33), and eventually died a martyr’s death, poured out for Jesus (Philippians 2.17). But that is the way to enthronement in God’s Kingdom, the way up is the way down. But is not that a note that needs to be sounded in our preaching today, along with the message of triumph? Folk are looking for, and expecting a suffering-free, cross-less gospel.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)