You don’t know what you’re asking. Mark 10 vs 32-45
If you’ve ever watched an edition of ‘the apprentice’ with Alan Sugar's apprentice, or the American show with Donald Trump along the same lines, you will be familiar with the way in which the team members do everything they can but cry ‘pick me, pick me’. What they do is to ignore the very idea of team for the sake of being noticed, and then going on to win a substantial investment from Lord Sugar, or even a job in previous years. But it’s getting kind of samey, because every time it’s obvious in the early rounds that the team that aims to work together will win, not go into the boardroom, and so survive until the later rounds.
Are Christians all that immune to such things? Of course we are. Because we would never do something so vulgar as cry out to almighty God for positions of power and authority...but then Jesus’ disciples did, so are we also at risk? But actually this passage is much wider than just looking for position, it’s actually about what it means to be a Christian.
When we first come to know Jesus we are, in effect, calling out for Christ to pick us. We cry out to him to save us from our sin, and so we should! But are we like the disciples? So we call out pick me, but don’t really understand what it is we are asking for?
I think that there are three mistakes that the disciples make when they ask Jesus for these positions of power.
1) They’ve not counted the cost.
The cost of sacrifice. Have we really understood what that means? For a missionary it might mean leaving home and family. For Mother Theresa it meant a whole life of serving. She said that “It is not enough for us to say, ‘I love God,’ but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbour…This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me”
Thing is, until you start to understand the sacrifice that God made in Jesus, you miss the point of sacrifice. God gave his son, his only son. What a cost he turned his back on him when he took on our sin, to which this passage refers in the cup: ‘can you be baptized in this cup?’. He is betrayed by his own people (33f). God risks everything to rescue us, He is looking for an agreement for us to stand with him, willing at least to undertake the same sufferings.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking though that taking on these sufferings will help us make it to heaven, Christ has already done that in his death. No the sacrifice is for the sake of others, just as the sacrifice of Christ was for others, not for himself.
Close to where I live there is a hill, it’s a 25% (1 in 4) and it’s one of those hills I really want to climb on my racing bike – I’m a cyclist. But there’s 100 foot I can’t beat, the steepest bit. So I am putting myself through training to be able to achieve what I want. I have been training on other steep hills, and using much bigger gears to train my stamina and my strength. I really suffer! But for whose benefit? Only my own. You don’t get anything out of it.
This is different from the sufferings of Christ, since all his suffering was for others. He gave and keeps giving.
Now suffering isn’t easy, but as we share in Christ’s sufferings we can also rejoice because we share in his resurrection.
2) It is not for Christ to give [the positions] to the disciples. But nor is it for us to claim our positions in eternity. It’s not that they asked for something that was beyond Christ’s ability, or even authority to give. Scripture says that all things will be put beneath his feet. That he will rule in dominion (Daniel 7:9-14) which is what is being recalled here. We are forgiven by the death of Christ on the cross simply because he is God, he can’t be less because that would weaken God, like putting more water into a cordial. And yet though equal with God he doesn’t grasp at that and instead Christ defers to the Father in humility, showing us the way.
It’s more, though, than just the right intension. We talk about nurture and nature. I have two sons, and one takes after me, the other after my wife. That is nature. But we also shape them in their behaviour, that’s nurture. Jesus is 100% in nature servant, and humble. For us our pattern as imitators of Christ should be to seek to have our nature changed by God to have the same humility.
So it is that he is able to say that it is not for him to give.
But if it is not for the servant Christ to give, it is certainly not for us to claim in the first place. This was Adam and Eve’s problem; they saw that being like God was a fine thing, that they could simply claim that place and so sin entered into the world.
We cannot claim the place of salvation because we think we have earned it, for a good life, or even a holy life, or because we think we deserve it. We can be sure of this, that we are entirely reliant on God’s grace, and in his hands, for eternal life is only for God to give.
3) Are you motives right?
The other disciples were indignant, and here was a lesson for them all. Their motives were for a selfish ambition. Why do we become Christians? Is it because we want God to solve all our problems? Or because we think we will get a better life. Here’s the truth: God owns your life already, it has been bought with Jesus blood on the cross. But through his love he gives it back to us. So there is nothing that we can gain other than the certain hope that Christ died for us, and we will receive eternal life, but in which case Christ should also be enough for us, and we can fully rely on God to supply all our other needs.
And living a good life, or whatever it might be termed, isn’t going to make my mansion any bigger than yours! No, it’s not Lord-ship that Christ seeks to plant within us, but the pattern of his own servant-hood, one which doesn’t grasp, or demand, but counts the cost, gives until it hurts, then gives more.
“Bobby was a special-education boy. He was just bright enough to remain in a regular classroom but was still noticeably different. He was the constant butt of jokes by his classmates, but he never seemed to mind. Every day, as the neighborhood kids walked home from school, Bobby’s mother would look out the window to see them all laughing and joking together—all except Bobby. He was always walking behind the others, all alone. It was obvious that the other children felt uncomfortable around Bobby and shunned him.
One day Bobby burst into the kitchen after school. “Mom, guess what?” he said. “Valentine’s Day is two weeks away, and our teacher said we could make valentines and give them to the other kids in our class!”
His mother’s heart sank as she pictured yet another opportunity for Bobby to be excluded. “Mom,” Bobby continued, “I’m going to make a valentine for every person in my class!”
“That’s very nice, Bobby,” his mother answered, fighting back the tears.
Over the next two weeks, Bobby worked every afternoon on those valentines. They were truly labors of love. When the big day finally came, he was so excited about taking his valentines to school that he couldn’t eat breakfast. But he was also a little worried.
“I hope I didn’t forget anybody,” he said as he dashed off to school.
Bobby’s mother made a fresh batch of his favorite cookies and prepared herself to comfort her son when he returned home brokenhearted from the valentine exchange. She knew how disappointed he would be with the response he got from the other children.
That afternoon she saw the same cluster of neighborhood kids walking home together. A half block behind them, all alone, was Bobby. Bobby’s mother turned away and placed a plate of cookies on the table.
Much to her surprise, Bobby came through the door with a huge smile on his face. “What is it, Bobby?” she asked. “How did it go?”
With a shout of pure joy, Bobby said, “Guess what, Mom! I didn’t forget a single kid!”” (Story from Hot illustrations for Youth Talks, Zondervan interactive, 2001).
Pick me stems from what can I get out of it. But imitators of Christ know already they have received everything promised, and they cry ‘pick me’ for the opportunity to serve from a heart of sacrifice.
It is in his nature and he also wants it to be in ours.
The message to the early Christians and to us is the same: be imitators of Christ. And perhaps like the disciples, we would be astonished to hear that, and even more astonished to hear what God would have us do.
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