The Rev. Paul J Cain
Mark 10: (32-34) 35-45
Servant of All
Fifth Sunday in Lent, 25 March 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
It sounds like something a small child would ask of a parent or grandparent: “I want you to do whatever I ask you to do.” Really? That’s your plan, James and John? They ask that their request be granted before they even tell Jesus what their request is. Guys, why not ask your mom to make the request on your behalf? Actually, that also happened, according to the additional detail given in Matthew’s account (20:20ff).
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to [Jesus] (him) and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 
“We are able,” James and John said. Really? Do you guys really know what you’re getting into? Again, it sounds like a child asking if he or she can keep the stray cat or puppy found in the neighborhood promising, “I’ll take care of it.” Parents may want to say what Jesus does say: “You do not know what you are asking.”
They did suffer. They did eventually drink the cup of suffering that Jesus drank. So how do we get from these two brothers, the sons of Zebedee essentially praying the prayer, “Let MY will be done on heaven as it is on earth,” to both James and John suffering for their proclamation of Christ? Acts 12:2 says one of the Herods who was king executed James with the sword. The book of Revelation was recorded by John when he was exiled to the island of Patmos, near the city of Ephesus in what we now call Turkey.
How do we get from two guys who want Jesus to make them earthly princes at His right and left in an earthly kingdom to those who serve, willing to give their lives rather than compromise their confession of Christ?
There are three additional verses of the Gospel reading appointed for this day. They are usually considered optional, but should be considered very important today. These three verses precede verse 35 of Mark Chapter 10:
32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
So, how does Christianity really work? Who is Jesus and what did He come to do? Jesus is the Son of Man and Son of God, the predicted Suffering Servant of the book of Isaiah, our Prophet, Priest, King, and also the Temple that would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days.
And what did He come to do? As the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, he will ransom the sheep, us. He will be delivered over, be mocked and flogged and ridiculed, will be forced to carry His own cross, suffer crucifixion, and will die.
The disciples have a bad habit that modern folks sometimes have, too. Sometimes, we only hear, remember, or want to know the bad stuff. People want the latest rumors, the nastiest gossip, the secrets that should remain secret. People guilty of a certain sin feel singled-out if someone even mentions the sin they feel guilty about. The law does that to people. It is part of our sinful human nature.
Listen to all of verse 34. What have we and the disciples missed that we should make the focus of this whole text? 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
Did you hear the good news, the Gospel? And after three days, he, Jesus, the Son of man, will rise from the dead.
Jesus’ kingdom is no mere earthly kingdom. He will rule over things. He is given authority over all heaven and earth, from the kingdom of power, earthly nations, to the kingdom of grace, the Holy Christian Church, and even the kingdom of glory, heaven itself. Yet Jesus does not rule like an earthly king rules. The Lord’s ancient people were warned about it when they begged Him for a king like all the other nations. According to 1 Samuel, And Samuel prayed to the Lord.
7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
Quite a warning, isn’t it? 1 Samuel 8 is very clear what earthly kings are all about. Do you remember the accounts of Saul, David, and Solomon? Didn’t they live up to the warning?
19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.”
And so Samuel anointed Saul. Jesus is not such a king. He says, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus is the king promised of old. 2 Samuel proves it. 7 Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” 3 And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
4 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, 5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’ 8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ” 17 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David. 
And Jesus is THAT kind of King. Solomon is the initial fulfillment of the Lord’s promise. The fullness of the Lord’s promise of a king who will be established on the throne forever is found in Christ, just as we read in Matthew 27, where Jesus is declared to be “King of the Jews.”
33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered [Jesus] (him) wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
Jesus had told James and John, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
Now they know why Jesus also said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.”
By faith in Christ and by the power of God the Holy Spirit they were able to remain faithful unto death. They received the crown of life won by Christ on their behalf.
There is one last loose end for us to address this morning. After James and John made their request of Jesus, the rest of the disciples had a visceral response: 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.
Yes, you heard that right. Ten of the disciples were upset with James and John for making their request to sit at Jesus’ right and left because they didn’t think to ask first!
This is the temptation of the disciple of Christ, even today. There are days when we are jealous of someone else. You or I may envy the gifts, talents, possessions, family, or life situation of some other Christian. All of that is but another case of the grass looking greener on the other side of the fence. We are told to be careful what we wish for, to be careful what we pray for, for we may not like what the other person’s life is really like.
Learn to be content with what you have: your possessions, your vocations, your skills and abilities, and your spiritual gifts. As Paul reminds us all in 1 Corinthians, spiritual gifts may be given to individuals when and where the Holy Spirit wills, but all those gifts given to individuals are given so that the whole body of Christ is built up.
Don’t be jealous of James or John. James was martyred. John was persecuted and exiled. How do we get from two guys who want Jesus to make them earthly princes at His right and left in an earthly kingdom to those who serve, willing to give their lives rather than compromise their confession of Christ?
Jesus provides the answer: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
This is Jesus, the ransom for all, the King of the Jews, the servant and slave of all. It is as Luther himself wrote, “A Christian is the freest lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” For more on this Biblical paradox of the Christian life, join us as we read Luther on Christian Freedom Sunday mornings at Bible Class.
Jesus says it best: “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” For that, thanks be to God! Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mk 10:32–45). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (1 Sa 8:6–22). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (2 Sa 7:1–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mt 27:33–38). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.