Not So With You: Mark 10:35-45

by Ed de la Cour on January 27, 2015

Mark 10: 35 - 45


January 25, 2015


      Serving as such is a counterintuitive idea.  We would not ordinarily volunteer to become a servant.  We enjoy being served; we typically do not enjoy serving.  Serving is for other people, people who are below us.  As with just about everything in the Kingdom of God, however, what God values is the exact opposite of what this world holds dear.  What is important to this world is power and control, status and wealth.  We want to run things; we don’t want to be not be run by them.  We value arrogance over humility and strength over mercy.  We delight in lottery winners but not in people who work for a living.  We believe that the sign of God’s blessing is prosperity.  Sickness or the loss of a job somehow means you have fallen short of God’s best for your life.  Sadly, and to our shame, we Christians tend to agree with the world far more than we agree with God.  But the values of the Kingdom of God are a far cry from the values of this world.  God values serving.


       No one exemplified that contradiction of values more than Jesus.  He was willing to touch lepers.  He walked with the poor and blessed their children.  Jesus protected immoral women and He refused to allow hypocritical men to stone them.  Still, the notion that God values what is weak over what the world considers strength is a hard thought to grasp.  In 1 Corinthians 1: 27 – 28, we read about God sovereignly choosing the foolish and the lowly and the weak and the despised things of this world and we shake our heads.  Surely, God can’t be serious!


       That’s why our hearts are bothered when we read the request of James and John here inMark 10.  With our best thinking, we believe they were right to make that request of Jesus.  We don’t really understand why Jesus turned them down.  We just know their attitude somehow displeased the Lord.  In these verses we learn that the values and ethics of the Gospel are not our values and ethics. 


Years ago, I attended the dedication of a new church sanctuary.  The interior color scheme was beautiful and I was completely impressed by the design of the building.  The pastor, however, told me his church was “all chiefs and no Indians.”  Everyone wanted to be the boss and very few were willing to serve.  His people seemed to value power and control and the right to rule over others.  There was apparently very little in that church culture that lifted up service or humility of heart.


       We want to be a very different kind of church.  Our goal and our heart’s desire is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, according to Romans 8: 29.  That means when people look at us they will be able to extrapolate from the way we act and think how Jesus would act and think.  There will be no confusion resulting from our speaking one way and living in another way.  If we are Christians, we will want to think like Jesus.  We will make decisions like Jesus.  We will conduct ourselves n any situation the way Jesus would, and we will want to react and respond to life as Jesus would. 


       Our struggle is to get to that place where serving is engrained in our hearts and in the culture of our church.  Let’s think about what happened in Mark 10.  James and John wanted to be given a position of power, status, and authority that the other disciples were not going to receive.  I noticed they called Jesus, “Teacher,” and not Lord, and I wonder if that might be significant!  It appears they had given some serious thought about the future and realized no one had successfully gained that coveted position, the right to sit next to Jesus, so they called dibs.  They said, Let us have that place of authority.  Put us ahead of our friends.  Place us over our friends. 


Call it whatever you’d like: status, position, authority, or power – James and John believed they were in a competition for it all and they succeeded in beating the others in making the request.  The reason this passage speaks to us is they were as we are; ready to go for the gusto, believing we can handle anything, because we want to be in charge.  We need to be in control.


       Jesus had a way of bringing His men back to reality.  So He asked them that question about drinking the cup and being baptized with the same baptism Jesus was to experience.  The question was intended to illustrate their lack of spiritual acuity.  Whether they knew it or not, the disciples were being asked if they were ready to die.  Of course, to a man, they responded to the question Jesus asked them with all the bravery you’d expect, as if Jesus were suggesting an afternoon picnic.  Of course we are ready!  Did they have a thought, even an inkling, or a hint as to what the cup referred to was, or what was entailed in that baptism?  They didn’t know nor did they care.  If it meant getting to sit at the right hand of Jesus, whatever it is, whatever You’re asking, we can do it.  They were supremely confident in their spirituality, just as we often are.


       Frequently, there’s a spirit of arrogance to our spirituality.  We pattern ourselves after the people in this world whose self-confidence is always on display.  We possess an unfounded confidence in our own spiritual ability, our own maturity, and in our own intelligence.  On the one hand we know how important it is for us to have a relationship with God.  That’s the “religious” part of our nature, the part of us that sees God as the cosmic policeman.  We want to have God’s approval and we strive to be on His good side.  But then, there’s the pagan and unbelieving portion of our heart that leads us to behave as though we have no need whatsoever.  The best among us can be gifted spiritual manipulators.


       In verse 41, the ten disciples rose up in righteous anger and indignation that James and John would ask such a thing of Jesus.  The truth is they were upset because James and John beat them to it.  They weren’t outnumbered, but they had been out-foxed and out-maneuvered, and they were mad.


       A “come to Jesus moment” was long overdue.  Jesus pointed out that what they desired, what they were seeking after, was same thing the “rulers of the Gentiles” prize highly.  In other words, you want to emulate and pattern your lives after the same people who oppress you at work and rub your noses in your weakness every day.  You want to bring that competitive spirit into the church of God.  You want to build the same kind of corporate structure and engage in the same dog-eat-dog ethics that bother you so much at work when other people live that way.  You hate it there, but you want to bring it here.


       Before we become defensive, let’s remember that we are also addicted to the patterns of this world.  The preachers who have big television ministries can count on us to donate to them. We want to attend a large church where we can have every ministry possible at our beck and call.  We want our churches to conform to the image of the quaint New England church, to be charming and have a steeple and pews and be painted white.  We want our churches to be small and intimate families, but at the same time, we want to have programs for our kids and staff to take care of every need we might have.


       But what does God want?  It’s safe to say God wants the precise opposite of what I want.  I want to be in charge.  I want people to obey me.  I want, I want, I want.  Jesus said in verse 43, “Not so with you.”  This world has its priorities, its rules of how to get ahead, its own code of behavior.  That is for them, but it’s not for you and me.  If I am full of wanting and demanding, then the spirit of this world owns my allegiance.  This world runs my thinking.  “Not so with you.”  If I am going to live for Jesus, that prideful and arrogant attitude of heart must die.  A whole new and different way of thinking not only has to be born within me, but also it must grow and bear the fruit of a servant heart.


       Even Jesus, who is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings, even Jesus who is our Savior and Redeemer, even Jesus was not one to sit back and relax and allow Himself to be served.  His reason for being, the goal and the purpose of His life, was to serve you and me with His lifeblood on the cross and to offer His own life “as a ransom for many.”  Jesus came to serve, not to lord it over us.


       It’s safe to say that none of the disciples were able to grasp this new way of thinking.  It’s safe to say that serving rather than being served is contrary to the way we were all trained to think as well.  Serving is counterintuitive because it focuses us away from the enshrining of my self. 


To live as a servant, I need the Spirit of God to fill me.  When God fills me – my self, and all the importance I would otherwise attribute to my self, has to take a back seat.  I allow self to die.  Indeed, when the self is baptized into Christ, the self and its demands will die, but it won’t be easy.  The self dies a messy death.


The Christian turns to Galatians 2: 20 and he takes to heart what Paul declared: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.”  That means I am dead, the self that refused to play second fiddle, the self that would never allow another to cut in front of me has been crucified.  Paul continues, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  That means although I may sometimes fail, my heart belongs to Jesus now.  I am living by faith and I am obeying God by faith.  Every day I make the decision to allow the “old me” to remain dead and dormant.  I choose every day that the “new me” be fed with God’s Word.  Every day I choose that the “new me” get dressed and leave the house to face the world.


I must allow the power of the Holy Spirit in my life to bring me into agreement withJohn 3: 30, where the John the Baptist said, “He must become greater and I must become less.”  There’s a purposeful determination to that sentence.  In order for Jesus to be my Savior, He MUST become greater than me in my heart, in my own mind, and in my affections!  I want Jesus; so therefore, I give God my permission to perform heart surgery and to create in me a heart that is willing to serve. 


For me to have a heart that is willing to serve really does require a serious reorientation of everything I had previously thought to be important.  A heart to serve means I am no longer driving the bus!  In order for me to be of any use whatsoever in the Kingdom of God, that reorientation, that change in thinking has to happen.  A Christian who lacks a servant heart is a spiritual oxymoron.


         It’s the heart to serve that opens us up to that next great adventure in our lives, whatever it’s going to be.  With that servant heart, we say to God, Father, I belong to You.  You have me, and wherever You want me to go, whatever You want me to do, and however you want me to live, I am Yours.


       You and I have been given what the disciples had not yet received: the gift of the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  We are no longer trying to serve under our own power, nor are we seeking to be something we aren’t.  We are able to serve people and to lower ourselves because the life of Jesus Himself is living and working in and through us.  We are no longer living to satisfy ourselves, but we are living to bring joy to the heart of God.  To that end, we have been released to serve in all sorts of ways. 


       When we are willing to serve, to do whatever, to go where ever and whenever we are needed, we are free to discover and use the spiritual gifts God gave us.  At one time, we thought those gifts would give us a certain cachet with other Christians whose approval we valued, but that was before the Spirit of God caught our hearts and changed our affections.  Now that we are willing to serve, whether it’s a toilet that needs cleaning or a widow who needs helping, we are on the job.  If it’s a person who needs prayer, we are there to pray.  If it’s a need in the church or a need in the community, God only has to ask us once.


       In Luke 1, Mary was met by the angel Gabriel and given the charge to become the birth mother of Jesus, the Son of God.  I’m not sure how she was able to grasp what that assignment might mean for her life.  But it’s Mary’s response to God in verse 38 that humbles me.  The priorities of this world did not figure into her reply to God.  Listening to her, I am made to realize why God honors the servant heart.  Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”  Whatever You want, Lord, wherever you want me to go, however you want me to live, Father, use me.


Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.

First Baptist Church of Pocasset
298 Barlows Landing Road
Post Office Box 1080
Pocasset, MA 02559