© Rosemary Bardsley 2013


Mark 10:32 reveals three different emotions/attitudes on this journey to Jerusalem –

A.1 Jesus
Jesus was ‘leading the way’. This was not a relaxing journey. Jesus was not ambling along in the middle of his group of disciples, teaching as he went. He was deliberately and purposefully striding ahead of the group, intent on this final walk to Jerusalem, intent on what he was going there to accomplish. Luke 9:51 states that ‘As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem’.

Many times in the past Jesus had deliberately avoided both misdirected acclaim and premature seizure.

Task #1: Review this deliberate avoidance in these verses:

Mark 1:34; 3:12:

Mark 1:44,45:

Mark 3:6,7:

Mark 5:43:

Mark 7:36:

Luke 4:28-30:

He came to die; the appointed time is very near; and he must die in Jerusalem [Luke 13:33]. That is the place of sacrifice. That is the place of atonement. That is the place of the Passover. These rituals that are prophetic symbols of his death all occur in Jerusalem. And on that same mountain on which Jerusalem is situated, Mount Moriah, God provided Abraham with a ram as a substitute for Isaac [Genesis 22]. So with deliberate intention Jesus sets out for Jerusalem. There, and nowhere else, this death that was planned before the creation of the world must occur.

A.2 The disciples
The disciples were ‘astonished’. They knew that the leaders of the Jews were plotting to kill Jesus. They knew that up to this point Jesus has avoided situations that would bring about his death. But now they see his determination to go to Jerusalem, the very place where the critical Pharisees and teachers of the law lived and practised their religion, the very place from which they had visited Galilee with the set purpose of questioning and criticising Jesus.

Task #2: Note the role of religious leaders from Jerusalem in the opposition Jesus faced:

Mark 3:22:

Mark 7:1-5:

In addition, Peter, James and John had been present on the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus about ‘his departure which he was about to bring to fulfilment in Jerusalem’ [Luke 9:31]; and Jesus had for some time been teaching the disciples that he was going to die [Mark 8:31-33; 9:30-32].

So the disciples are ‘astonished’ – the Greek word has the connotation of being rendered immovable, and is associated with ‘terror’, not just amazement or surprise. Why on earth would Jesus deliberately set out on a journey that will end in his betrayal and death? Why would he whom they know is the Messiah do such a thing? The Messiah, they believed, was headed for glory, not for abasement, for victory, not for the defeat of death. So why would he deliberately walk towards death?

A.3 Those who followed
Those who followed ‘were afraid’. This appears to be a group of followers additional to the twelve disciples. [The next verse refers specifically to the Twelve, whom Jesus took aside.] There was something that inspired a fearful awe in the obvious determination with which Jesus proceeded on this journey, regardless of the danger that he knew threatened him in Jerusalem.

A.4 The reason for the journey
Jesus took the Twelve aside and, for the third time, explained what was going to happen in Jerusalem.

Task #3: Read Mark 10:33-34.

[1] Make a list of what Jesus said was going to happen.

[2] Compare this with Mark 8:31-33 and 9:30-32. What new information did Jesus give in 10:33-34?


Whether or not James’ and John’s request had any connection with what Jesus had just said is difficult to determine. We might wonder:

Did they not really hear anything he said?
Or, did they actually hear and believe his statement that he would rise on the third day, and on that basis bring their request?

Given the disciples’ previous failure to understand Jesus’ earlier references to his death and resurrection, and given their desolation when he was crucified, there seems to be little reason to assume that they based their request on his promise of his resurrection.

Both Jesus and the other disciples recognized the inappropriateness of their request: Jesus, when he heard it, said ‘You do not know what you are asking’. The disciples ‘became indignant’ with James and John.

Task #4: Read 10:40-44. Answer these questions:

[1] What did Jesus mean by ‘the cup I drink’ and ‘the baptism I am baptized with’?


[2] Suggest what Jesus meant when he said the disciples would ‘drink the cup’ he drank, and ‘be baptized with the baptism’ he was baptized with.

[3] Jesus gave three reasons why the request was out of order. What are they?


James and John’s initial approach to Jesus was to ask him to do for them ‘whatever we ask’ [10:35]. That in itself is highly presumptuous. It was like asking someone for a ‘blank cheque’, or for a bank card giving access to someone’s account. It expresses both self-centredness and self-confidence. It assumes that James and John have a right to whatever they want, and that what they want is actually what is best, not only for themselves but also for others. It assumes a knowledge of circumstances and of the future that not one human being possesses. It fails to recognize that human desires are corrupted and distorted by sin, and are more likely to be opposed to the good will of God for us than to align with it.

This open-ended initial request of James and John makes no allowance for the sovereign will of God, which elsewhere in Scripture is required to modify and to be included in all of our prayers:

‘… your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ [Matthew 6:10].
‘… yet not my will, but yours be done’ [Luke 22:42].
‘ … if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us’ [1John 5:14].

So Jesus asked them what it was they wanted him to do for them [verse 36]. It was then that they put to him their request to sit at his right and his left ‘in your glory’. Matthew 20:20 informs us that it was via their mother that they made this request. That it was their own request is clear because it was to them that Jesus addressed his reply [Matthew 20:22].

Their request shows that they are thinking in terms of a national, political kingdom, in which Jesus is on the throne, acknowledged as King, and in which there will be positions of power and authority occupied by Jesus’ second and third in command. James and John covet these positions of earthly power.

Jesus tells them several things:

[1] They don’t know what they are asking. Although they believe he is the Christ [the Messiah], it is quite evident that they have not yet understood that he is a Messiah quite different from popular expectations. He has just told them, for the third time, that he is going to be betrayed and killed. This is so far from their expectations that it does not make sense to them. It fails to impact them. In addition, because his kingdom is not an earthly, political kingdom, these grand positions which they are craving for themselves simply do not exist as they perceive them.

[2] Jesus spoke of ‘the cup I drink’ and ‘the baptism I am baptized with’. By both of these he means the suffering towards which he is deliberately moving:

‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.’ [Matthew 26:39].

‘I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed’ [Luke 12:50].

When Jesus asked James and John if they could share in both of these, the answer, at the deepest level, it ‘No.’ No one other than Jesus can die this sacrificial, substitutionary, atoning death. No one other than Jesus can die to atone for the sin of the world. No one other that Jesus is qualified to bear our sin in his body on the tree. No one other than Jesus, the ‘righteous’, can die for ‘the unrighteous’. But James and John have, at this point, no understanding of this deep grace whatsoever.

At another level, the level on which Jesus responds to their ‘We can’, yes, they, and we also, can and do participate in his sufferings.

‘If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. … They will treat you like this because they do not know my name, for they do not know the One who sent me’ [John 15:20,21].

‘… it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him’ [Philippians 1:29].

‘In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ [2Timothy 3:12].

At this point of time James and John, and their mother who assisted them in this request, had no idea at all of Jesus’ meaning.

[3] The ‘seating arrangements’ of the Kingdom. Christ’s ‘kingdom’ is not of this world [John 18:36], and its principles and priorities are not the same as the world’s. There does not seem to be anywhere in the New Testament where we see Jesus on a throne with two humans on his right and his left. What we do find in the New Testament is:

That Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father [this is in multiple references.]

That, in the highly figurative revelation given to John, the throne of God is surrounded by Twenty-Four ‘elders’ each seated on thrones. These are not beside God in positions of authority, but before him in the position of worship [Revelation 4:4,10; 5:8,14; 11:16; 19:4]. Rather than sharing in his rule and authority these Elders lay their crowns down before God, fall down before the Lamb, and fall on their faces and worship.

That the Twelve will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel [Matthew 19:28].

That ‘the saints’ will judge/rule ‘the world’ and the angels [1Corinthians 6:2,3].

That, in a parable about the judgement day, the people who are on the right hand of Jesus are all those who by their deeds demonstrate the integrity of their faith; and those who are on his left hand are those who are condemned [Matthew 25:31-46].

That, in the physical reality of his death, those on his right and left were two robbers.

That all who believe in him are already ‘in him’, seated with him in the heavenly realms at the right hand of the Father [Ephesians 2:6; see also Colossians 3:1-2].

Jesus did not tell James and John ‘No.’ What he did say was that (1) it was not his responsibility to grant what they asked; (2) those places belonged to those for whom they were prepared; (3) it was the Father who determined who occupied those places [see Matthew 20:23],  and (4) that that decision had already been made: ‘have been prepared’ is in the Perfect Tense – indicating an action already completed in the past, and still in effect in the present.

When we look at what is ‘prepared’ by God for people of faith we find that it is not about being Christ’s ‘second in command’, rather we find these references:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’ [Matthew 25:34].

‘… I am going there to prepare a place for you … so that you also may be with me where I am’ [John 14:2,3].

‘… they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them’ [Hebrews 11:16].


‘The grace was given us in Christ before the beginning of time’ [2Timothy 1:9].

‘… the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time’ [Titus 1:2].

God has prepared a rich, immeasurable salvation for all those who love him, unknowable to the human mind, but revealed by his Spirit to all who believe [1Corinthians 2:9,10]. This salvation, this gift, was prepared by God before the beginning of time, before the creation of the world, before human sin.

All who are ‘in Christ’ inherit this salvation prepared for us in Christ before the foundation of the world. While not a single believer has any prestige or pre-eminence, all true believers are:

Members of ‘a royal priesthood’ [1Peter 2:9].
Made to be ‘a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father’ [Revelation 1:6; 5:10].
Are given ‘authority over the nations’, ruling them ‘with an iron scepter’ [Revelation 2:26,27].
Are given ‘the right’ to sit with Christ on his throne [Revelation 3:21].

[4] Kingdom perspectives. Human kingdoms operate by the exercise of power and authority, and in terms of the greater and the lesser. That is what James and John sought – to be in positions of authority over all others. But that is not the way of the Kingdom of Christ. Indeed it is inappropriate in his Kingdom. Greatness in his Kingdom consists in serving everyone else [Mark 10:42-44].

There is in the Kingdom of Christ an equality that outlaws all quests for greatness or superiority, and all bargaining for positions of power:

‘… all of you … have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ [Galatians 3:28].

‘Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all’ [Colossians 3:11].

‘There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ [Romans 3:22-24].

The Gospel of grace is a great leveller. It pulls down the self-sufficient, the proud. It lifts up the despairing, the rejected. It tells us we are all equally sinners worthy only of condemnation, then it unites us to Christ, in whom we are all acquitted and declared ‘not guilty’ on the basis of his righteousness alone. There is no place here for human pride. There is no place here for aspirations of glory.

[5] The example of the King. Jesus, the Son of Man, the glorious King of the Kingdom, is the ultimate example of humility and service. He who is the King, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many [10:45]. He who is God, did not hold himself aloof but put aside his glory and became one of us so that he could redeem us [Philippians 2:6-8]. This is the servant heart, this is the humility, to which Jesus commands us [Philippians 2:3-5].



In exposing the inappropriateness of James and John’s request Jesus gives us insight into the reason he, the King of glory, came to earth as a human being.

[1] He did not come to be served. Earthly rulers exude power. Earthly rulers exact service. Not only from their ‘ordinary’ subjects, but also from those in their official retinue – their generals, their vice-presidents, their deputies, their administrators. Everyone is there to serve the King. But Jesus employed no servants, had no slaves, demanded not ‘rights’, exercised no royal prerogatives, exacted no taxes, commissioned no army, demonstrated no pomp and splendour. From the earthly perspective he was a very strange ‘king’.

When the wise men came from the east to worship him, they, thinking in terms of earthly values, went straight to Jerusalem, the city of the King, and to Herod, the King. But Jesus was not there in the palace. He was born in a village stable, recognized only by the shepherds, until the re-directed magi added their worship. He grew up in another village, a village despised by the Jerusalem Jews, and worked there as the village carpenter. A servant of others, engaged by them to fulfil their orders. So poor that during his three years of ministry he slept in borrowed beds, he used borrowed houses and borrowed rooms, he travelled in borrowed boats and on a borrowed donkey, and survived on the donations and hospitality of others.   

This period of incarnation was not the time for his divine power and his divine position to be enforced. That power and that glory will be seen and recognized by all at this second coming.

[2] He came to serve. He is the ultimate example of the biblical principle of submission – the principle of putting aside one’s own rights in order to achieve the well-being of the other.

Task #5: Identify this principle of submission in these prophetic verses about Jesus Christ:

Isaiah 42:2:

Isaiah 42:3:

Isaiah 49:6:

Isaiah 50:6:

Isaiah 52:14:

Isaiah 53:2b-3:

Isaiah 53:7:

The One who endured all of this is the eternal Son of God – the Creator, the King. At any point he could have broken out in just judgement against the sin of man against him, but he chose not to. He chose rather to heal the sick, comfort the sorrowing, feed the hungry, liberate those held captive by demons, and preach the gospel of the Kingdom to all. In each of these he served, not just our physical need, but our deep spiritual need to see and to know God, and in seeing and knowing God to be saved to live with God forever.

[3] And to give his life as a ransom for many. But the serving that Jesus engaged in during his three years of ministry is but the prologue to the ultimate reason for his coming, the ultimate act of service. He came to give his life as a ransom for many.

In Mark 8:31 Jesus had told the disciples of his approaching death. But he did not explain the purpose of that death.

In 9:9 Jesus alluded to his death; again he did not explain why.

In 9:31 he again told them he would be killed; again he did not say why.

In 10:33,34 he told them yet another time; but again he did not explain the reason for his death.

Now he gives the explanation: his death is ‘a ransom for many’. The word ‘ransom’ refers to the price paid to secure the release of someone or something held in bondage, slavery, captivity, entrapment. When the ransom price is paid whoever or whatever was held is set free, restored to its rightful owner or its rightful position. This liberation achieved by the payment of a ransom price is referred to by the noun ‘redemption’; the act of obtaining this liberation is referred to by the verb ‘redeem’.

Jesus here states that he came with the deliberate intention and purpose of laying down his life as the price necessary to redeem human beings. By this we understand that human beings are in a position of bondage, slavery, captivity and entrapment. We all need to be set free. We all need to be liberated. We all need to be redeemed. Our redemption, our liberation, our freedom, is obtained by one means only: the blood of Jesus Christ.

Task #6: What do these verses teach about the price paid for our redemption?

Romans 3:24,25:

Galatians 3:13:

Ephesians 1:7:

Hebrews 9:12:

1Peter 1:18,19:

This giving of his life, this supreme act of service, is the ultimate expression of greatness and the ultimate expression of grace. Here in this act both the love of God and the power of God are demonstrated.

By this action of apparent weakness [and nothing looks weaker than death] the power of God is at work to set us free:

Task #7: What are we redeemed [set free] from?

[1] John 5:24; Hebrews 2:15:

[2] Romans 7:6; 8:1:

[3] Galatians 3:13:

[4] Colossians 1:13:

[5] Hebrews 9:15:



James and John, like all of the disciples back in Mark 9:33ff, sought observable, human greatness. Jesus here, as he did then, redefined greatness.

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.
Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

Even as the Son of Man came to serve … to give his life a ransom for many.

Task #8: Personal challenge.

[1] How does Jesus’ teaching here challenge your perceptions of greatness?


[2] What personal changes can you make to become more of a servant and less of a power-seeker?


[3] How does the self-denial of Jesus, by which you are redeemed, encourage you to similarly forego your ‘rights’ for the sake of the well-being of the ‘other’ in your life – your spouse? your children? your parents? your friends? your work colleagues? your employer? your neighbour? your enemies?


E. BLIND BARTIMAEUS – Mark 10:46-52

Task #9: Answer these questions:

[1] What is the significance of the title ‘Son of David’?

[2] How do we know that Bartimaeus considered himself unworthy?

[3] In this specific incident, what is the role of faith?

[4] Discuss whether this ‘faith’ commended by Jesus was (a) belief that acknowledged who Jesus is, or (b) belief that Jesus could make him see.