As we have studied Mark’s Gospel we have discovered several instances were the disciples had a problem with self-glorification and selfish ambition. Unfortunately they did not learn from the error of their ways, but continuously vied for position and promotion.
“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John” (Mark 10:35-41).
We see here the spiritual ignorance of James and John in petitioning for the first places in the Kingdom. This scene was either instigated by their mother or they got her to speak on their behalf, “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom” (Matthew 20:20-21). In spite of all the plain warnings of the Lord, they obstinately clung to the notion that the Messianic Kingdom was about to be established by Him. Even when the Lord spoke of the cost of truly following Him, they persisted in desiring exaltation. They probably thought that a few days of suffering was all it would take! They had the boldness to say that they could endure anything that would be thrown at them as long as they were given the right to reign with Him. The saddest thing in all of this is that they did not know their own hearts, nor the nature of the path before them. Their dream of earthly rewards and crowns blinded them to their true condition.
The church abounds with people who think that it is easy to live the Christian life. They expect luxury, ease and bright sunny days all along the highway to Heaven. They are apt to forget that there is a cross that must be borne before the crown can be worn. They think that they can find entrance into Christ’s Kingdom through ability and willpower. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). They misjudge the weakness of the flesh when faced with tribulation and persecution. Through bitter experience they soon realise that self-glorification defeats whatever faith they think they have. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
We need to take a solid and calm look at our standing in Christ. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). We, like James and John, ought to believe that Jesus is “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16), and that one day believers “shall reign with him a thousand years” on earth (Revelation 20:6). But we must not be like them in forgetting the cross that must be borne; “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Let us not trust in our own strength, or else we will be defeated by a humiliating fall.
“But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:42-44).
Once again the Lord reminded them of the deception of self-glorification, and pointed out that humility was the true nature of those who follow Him. Their idea of greatness was fashioned after the world’s image, but this must be laid aside if they are to be honoured by God. Jesus speaks here of selflessness and servanthood. If they really wanted to follow Him, then they must imitate His nature and character, for He came to minister to those lost in sin.
Self-esteem is quick to take root in our hearts, therefore we must constantly remind ourselves that self-righteousness, self-love and self-glorification dishonours God and destroys the soul. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). We know that humility reigns in our souls when we can rejoice when others are exalted, though we are overlooked and passed by. True greatness is not found in being a famous and respected leader, but in being a servant to others. It matters not if we do not get our names in the newspaper, what really matters is if our names are written in the Lamb’s “Book of Life” (Revelation 13:8). Only Christ-likeness brings the eternal reward.
“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
The “for even” speaks volumes here. The whole text states the very reason and way Christ came into the world. He paid the price for others, a debt He did not have to pay. To procure liberty for the sinner He was willing to be nailed to the cross. The King became a servant! It is true that we do not owe the world anything, but we do owe everything to the One who loved the world. Jesus did not seek Herod’s seat or the high priest’s robes; instead He came to offer Himself freely to redeem sinners. He willingly became a criminal in the eyes of Rome, Herod and the priests. The “only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15), took the lowest possible position. Are we really determined to follow Him? “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
James and John said that they were able to suffer for Christ. James at least soon found out that following Jesus can cost life itself, “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2). Nevertheless, it is not James but Jesus who is the supreme example of what it means to truly follow God.