1. Prov. 13:10 says: "By pride comes only contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom." Because of the fall into sin, all people are proud, selfish and want to be gods. Christians, too, because of their sinfulness, are proud. Jesus gives them a lesson in humility.
2. Three times Jesus foretold His suffering, death and resurrection. Mk. 8:31-33; 9:30- 32; 10:32-34. The disciples did not understand. After each of these predictions Jesus gave lessons in humility and told the disciples that they would have to suffer. Mk. 8:34-38; 9:33-37; our text, 10:35-45. The disciples were cold and selfish. But Jesus was patient with them. He taught them again and again. He is patient with us and wants us to be patient with others.
3. In the evening when Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, just before His suffering and death, Jesus again gave lessons in humility. Read Jn. 13:4-17 and Lk. 22:24-30. The disciples were weak and proud. Jesus was patient and kind.
4. The Jews at Jesus' time wanted the kingdom of glory without suffering. The disciples thought the same way. Even on Ascension Day they still looked for an earthly kingdom. Acts 1:6. That's why James and John asked to be seated at His right and left in His kingdom, in His glory. They wanted glory without suffering. But Paul tells us: "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:21. Jesus said: "If anyone wishes to follow after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me."
5. At Mt. 19:28 Jesus said: "Verily I say to you that you who have followed Me in the regeneration when the Son of man sits on His glorious throne, you too will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." It is true that Christians will reign with Jesus forever in glory. But that comes only after they have faithfully and humbly followed Him in this life. We must be very careful not to twist the Word of God to suit our own tastes and desires.
6. Our text is paralleled at Mt. 20:20-28. According to that account the mother of James and John, Salome, incited her sons to approach Jesus with this request. There is no conflict or disagreement between the two accounts.
7. The request of James and John was not only wrong but also was asked in the wrong spirit. They did not say: "if it is Your will." It was an arrogant request. But Jesus was patient with them.
8. To drink the cup and to be baptized with a baptism in vss. 38 is figurative language for suffering. It has nothing to do with the means of grace, baptism and the Lord's Supper. Read Acts 12:2 and Rev. 1:9. Jesus' prophecy was fulfilled. By that time James and John had learned their lesson well.
9. The parallel at Mt. 20:23 explains Mk. 10:40. It was the Father in heaven Who assigns places in heaven, not Jesus. This does not deny Jesus' divinity. It shows His deep humiliation.
10. Vs. 41 shows us that the ten were as selfish as the two. Jesus now teaches the twelve a lesson: In this life, earthly rulers in the kingdom of power rule others. Jesus is not condemning them. It is a fact of life. But in the kingdom of God in this life whoever wishes to be great or first must be servant and slave. He must be like Jesus. He came to be a servant. His greatest service for all was to give His life as a payment for the sins of the world. Jesus is our Savior and our Example.
11. Just as at Rom. 5:29 in Mk. 10:45 "the many" are compared to "the One." This is an expression used by the Hebrews. It does not mean that Christ did not die for all. We know that He died for all. II Cor. 5:15.
12. This is a very fitting text just before Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. Lent is the season in which we recall our sins and sinfulness which caused the servitude, suffering and death of our Lord.
THEME: Jesus, Our Savior And Example
St. Paul says at Gal. 5:26: "Let us not be conceited, challenging each other to rivalry, jealous of one another." Satan tempted Adam and Eve to try to become gods. He caused them to be proud and stubborn. They broke the first commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Ever since that time all people are conceited, proud, vain-glorious, jealous of others, causing other people to sin. Jesus' disciples were that way too. Jesus saved them and taught them.
I. WHY JESUS IS OUR SAVIOR AND EXAMPLE
When Jesus became a man He did not find a world of loving people. Herod was jealous of Him and therefore wanted to kill Him. When Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath Day the Jews sought to kill Him because He said that He was God. Jn. 5:18. King Saul hated David because he knew that David would become king. The chief priests and Pharisees plotted Jesus' death because the people were following Jesus. Jn. 11:48. And even the disciples broke the first commandment by their arrogance and self conceit both on the occasion or our text and on other occasions. Mk. 8:34-38; Mk. 9:33-37. It has rightly been said that if we could keep the first commandment we would not need the other nine. All sin, in one way or another, is an attempt by man to become or be god. We must confess that, in this respect, we are like Adam and Eve, King Saul, King Herod, the Jews and the disciples. We would like to have positions next to Christ in His kingdom of glory because we think that we are worthy of it or have earned it. Jesus came to save us from ourselves.
II. WHAT JESUS HAS DONE ABOUT THIS SITUATION
Sometimes, like James and John, we pray for things that are not good for us. Sometimes we act like government officials who rule other people by force. But then we look into God's Word and begin to realize our sins and what Christ has done in our stead. He came not to be served but to serve. Even in heaven He will still serve us. Lk. 12:37. But how did he serve us here on earth? By giving His life as a ransom for us. This is a constant theme in the Bible. I Pet. 1:18,19; I Cor. 6:20; I Cor. 7:23; Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:5; I Tim. 2:5,6; II Pet. 2:1; Rev. 5:6,12; 13:8; 14:3,4; I Jn. 2:2; Rom. 3:25. God loved this sinful, arrogant, proud, conceited world so much that He gave His only Son as a ransom to pay for the world's sin and sinfulness.
III. HOW WE PROFIT FROM JESUS' SERVICE FOR US
When Jesus came into this world He said: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Saul, King Herod and many of the Jews did not profit from Jesus' service because they did not confess their sins. They continued in and died in their arrogance. Only if we confess our sins can we profit from Jesus' service for us. "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I Jn. 1:9. When we confess our sins and believe in Jesus, our ransom, we become new creatures. "If any man is in Christ he is a new creature." II Cor. 5:17. Paul adds: "Old things have passed away, behold, they have become new." Such a person has become renewed. He becomes God's servant, not his own master. He becomes like Jesus Who came not to be served but to serve. He becomes like St. Paul. First he wanted to be his own master and dictate to others. But he was converted. By the grace of God Paul labored more than all others. I Cor. 15:9-11.
If we wish to be great or first in the kingdom of God, like Christ we must become servants to all people. That is possible only by the grace of God. By His grace we confess our sins, believe in His promises, become united to Him by faith and thus begin to be like him.