Jesus was on a mission. He was single-minded. Focused. Jesus came to earth to die a cruel and painful death for you and me! Over and over, Jesus taught His disciples about His purpose and plan. He came to die sacrificially... and live victoriously!
“Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days” (Mark 8:31, CSB). “For he was teaching his disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after he is killed, he will rise three days later’ ” (Mark 9:31, CSB). “Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them the things that would happen to him. ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him, and he will rise after three days’ ” (Mark 10:32-34, CSB).
(Matthew and Luke also record these three accounts: Matthew 16:21-26, 17:22-23, 20:17-19 and Luke 9:22-25, 9:43-45, 18:31-34.)
Jesus foretold His cruel death. He would be betrayed and beaten. He would suffer and die at the hands of brutal men. He also promised to throw off the shroud of death. After three days in the grave, He was comin’ out! Death could not hold Him! He promised!
The disciples should have been overjoyed. They should have been shouting! Dancing!
But instead, in the very next verse, James and John respond to Jesus with a request. “ ‘Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask you.’ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked them. They answered him, ‘Allow us to sit at your right and at your left in your glory’ ” (Mark 10:35-37, CSB).
Are you kidding? Jesus says, “I’m gonna to die ... and then I’m gonna to bust out of the grave!” His most loyal disciples respond. “That’s fine. Can we sit by you in Heaven? We’d like to reserve the best seats.”
The request is condemnable. Oh, the arrogance! They almost ignore Jesus’ pain and move selfishly to their position in glory. It’s messed up. They were messed up.
Condemnable, and yet, maybe it was also commendable. The fishermen-turned-fishers-of-men were ready to die... to go with Jesus to Heaven. They were ready to suffer with Jesus so they could be eternally near Jesus.
As it turned out, James was beheaded for his faith. “King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the church, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2, CSB). James died quickly. John lingered for years and probably died alone as an imprisoned exile on the Island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). Both died as martyrs for the Gospel, faithful to their final breath.
There’s a lesson for us. Sometimes we get a little too big for our britches. We need to check our proud hearts.
We need to follow the same path ... Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it” (Luke 9:23-25, CSB).
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor