March 17, 2024 Mark 10:35-45

Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem. And as they are walking, He is telling them about His upcoming Passion. How he will suffer, be crucified, dead and buried. Remember back to Transfiguration Sunday. Right before Jesus was transfigured, and His glory as the Son of God was revealed,

After the transfiguration, Jesus starts heading for Jerusalem, for He knows His time is coming. As they are traveling, Jesus teaches them many things, and performs more miracles. He also tells them a second time about His death. 'The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.' But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” (Mark 9:31-32).

They keep traveling, and Jesus keeps teaching. Right before our text today, Jesus tells them again, “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. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Jesus has told them now about His death, count it out, 1 – 2 – 3 times. And now He is telling them more details. He will not only be killed. He will be condemned, handed over, mocked, spit on, and whipped. These words have just fallen from Jesus’ lips, and here come the disciples in our reading today.

“Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask.” Well, they are at it again, aren’t they? The disciples are busy displaying their ignorance. Only this time it is not Peter, but James and John. Their request of Jesus is almost laughable. They call him “Teacher,” which means that He is in charge, and He is the leader. Then they flip it all around, asking that He do what they say. So much for third time’s the charm. Instead, they step up to the plate, only to swing and miss again. If this had been baseball, three strikes, and they would have been out.

But Jesus has patience with them. “What do you want Me to do?” “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” And here it is. These two are thinking that Jesus is about to establish an earthly kingdom, and they want in on the action. Jesus, you are number one, but make us number two and number three. Crowned princes as it were. Vice President and Secretary of State we might say.

It’s easy to see the foolishness and arrogance of James and John, isn’t it. Jesus has told them three times about His death, and they are still looking for glory. Foolish, foolish. And the other disciples saw the arrogance. “What do you two think you are doing?” they argue. What makes you think you get to be number two and number three? So you think are you big shots, and better than us?

Jesus has to step in and calm things down. You all have bad math. You want to be great, number two and three? Then instead of being “A,” you need to be “Z”. It is the gentiles who are lording it over each other. But you will not be like that. I have come to serve, so serve one another.

So just what were James and John up to? Why did they want to be number two and number three? They wanted these positions so that they could sop up the glory they thought would be surrounding Jesus. They wanted His glory for their glory. Sopping of glory isn't limited to them. We watched our favorite team on TV, and the next day proudly proclaimed, "We won!" Who is this we? What did I do but sit around on the couch and eat potato chips. There is nothing wrong with watching the game or eating potato chips. But it was the players that won. Yet, we say, "we won" because we want to sop up their glory for ourselves.

James and John claimed that Jesus was Rabbi, Teacher, Number One. But then they presumed to be able to tell Him what He should do. “Jesus,” they said, “We want you to do what we want.”

Their words keep echoing through the centuries. I want you to do what I want, Jesus. “It’s about your best life now,” proclaims one TV program. “God is here to serve you."

Like James and John, we seek to serve ourselves. In fact, we are born enslaved to ourselves, our own wants, passions, and desires.

Jesus did come, not to be served, but to serve us. However, instead of giving us what we want, He gives us what we need.

He gives us His own righteousness.

He give up His life so that we may have life.

He is arrested, bound, and captive to the cross, that we may be set free.

Free to not be “me,” but to live as His holy child.

No longer must we seek the glory of this world, which is about what shines onto us from the outside. We live in the glory of Christ, who lives in us on the inside. It is His glory that shines out of us. Instead of giving us what our flesh wants, He gives us His own flesh. What does Christ Himself say, “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

What is a ransom? The payment for freedom. The price that sets the hostages free. Has Christ paid the price of our sin, so we owe no debt to God? Yes. He did all that, and more. His death not only delivers us from the debt of sin, His death is our ransom.

He was not captive to Death. It did not hold Him in the tomb. So, too, we are no longer captive to the power of the devil. We are no longer captive to our own flesh. Instead of seeking to serve ourselves, to glorify ourselves, Christ has freed us to serve others. We serve others in our activities, when we do good work for our friends and family. We serve others in our home as we care from the members of our families.

Christ truly is the First and the Last. He is King of the Universe and deserves to be served. Yet He set all glory aside, and served all, died the most awful and shameful death, that we would be ransomed. Set free from the enemy, and free from ourselves. . He who is “A,” became “Z.” He gave His life as our ransom. Now, we live in Him and in His kingdom, in a glory that lasts and does not fade away.

For Christ has died. Christ has risen. And Christ shall come again.