I.) The Greatest Enemy of the Heart
In our portion of Scripture this morning we have another lesson where Jesus seeks to destroy the greatest enemy which dwells in the human heart. No one is free from its reach or influence. It is the voice inside that does not correctly assess our “own worth,” it rather beckons us: To a disproportionate esteem of self, To have an “unreasonable conceit” of our own self-importance, and To live in a way that demonstrates nothing but “contempt of others.” Our enemy is pride, and our hearts its home.
It was Jonathan Edwards, who many consider the greatest theologian of America, that said:
“Pride is the worst viper in the heart. It is the first sin that ever entered into the universe. It lies lowest of all in the foundation of the whole building of sin. Of all lusts, it is the most secret, deceitful, and unsearchable in its ways of working. It is ready to mix with everything. Nothing is so hateful to God, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, or of so dangerous consequence. There is no one sin that does so much to let the devil into the hearts of the saints and expose them to his delusions.”
Country clergyman, Charles Bridges, offers a similar sentiment when he says:
“The proud person is Satan’s throne, and the idle man his pillow.”
Beloved Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter said:
“Self is the most treacherous enemy, and the most insinuating deceiver in the world. Of all other vices, it is both the hardest to find out, and the hardest to cure.”
The reality of pride in our hearts is why the Scripture emphatically instructs believers to:
1.) Put on humility.
2.) Clothe ourselves in Humility.
3.) Walk in humility.
This is actively and diligently done in order to preserve the bond of unity among us. This is done by humility of mind. Humility of mind is achieved by looking to the gospel, and fixing your gaze upon the humility of Christ:
“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”
Look to the humility of your Savior and have this attitude in yourselves.
Humility must be actively sought in our lives because God resists the proud. He opposes the proud because everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to Him. He is repulsed by pride, and He hates it. He will abase all who are lifted up.
II.) Glory Desired and Suffering Ignored
We see the disciples are still consumed by pride even though Jesus addressed it in Mark 9. This is especially true of those in His inner circle: Peter, James, and John. I mention Peter because in the previous portion with the Rich Young Ruler, Peter points to what they had done and wants to know:
“What will there be for us?”
This is a valid question, but it is still self-focused, nonetheless. The Sons of Zebedee display utter self-focus when they come up to Jesus and say to Him:
“Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”
This statement wreaks of self-centeredness, and manifests that these men are still concerned about “with of them was the greatest” among them. They do not desire to be last of all and servant of all; they want to be the first among all and served by all. They are unashamedly proud before the One who just outlined His Passion that required His complete humility. We will see that they have a skewed view of themselves that produces both unreasonable conceit and contempt for the other disciples. This in turn brings indignation.
Before we consider Jesus’ response to their foolish inquiry, realize they are not alone. Matthew reveals that their mother is with them, “bowing down, and making a request of Him.” Her request is on behalf of her two sons and not at all for herself:
“Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.”
This certainly seems pathetic to us for these two grown men to have their mother do this, but the Scripture potentially hints at why their mother is there. It is a commonly held interpretation that the wife of Zebedee is the sister of Mary, Salome. Which would make her Jesus’ aunt.
This view is maintained based upon process of elimination when examining the gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Christ. Many scholars agree that John records three women at the crucifixion alongside Jesus’ mother, Mary:
“Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”
Mark also names three women:
“Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome.”
Matthew mentions three women:
“Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.”
This is of course disputed because the Bible does in fact reveal that “many women were there looking on from a distance.” What lends credibility to the interpretation; however, is the three women consistently being identified. This interpretation sheds some light on why their mother is making this request: Familial Persuasion.
Regardless of one’s interpretation of their mother, James and John think more highly of themselves then they ought to think, for Jesus says:
“’What do you want Me to do for you?’ They said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.’”
Humiliation and suffering are not on their mind, personal glory and honor is what captivates them. It is almost as if they completely ignore what Jesus has just declared to all of them:
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
Their competitive desire to be first and greatest of all blinds them.
III.) The Cup of Suffering
The first thing that Jesus does is draw out the ignorance and foolishness of their request:
“You do not know what you are asking.”
To draw out their obliviousness He asks:
“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
The Obvious question is:
Q.) What is the cup He needs to drink, and the baptism with which He is to be baptized?
A.) It is to drink the cup of God’s wrath, and to be immersed in the suffering due guilty man.
To drink the cup is a Jewish expression that means to experience something, and it is used in the Old Testament to convey the wrath of God:
“Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.”
“For a cup is in the hand of the Lord, and the wine foams; It is well mixed, and He pours out of this;
Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.”
“The cup of His anger; the chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs.”
“Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it.”
Jesus declared in Luke:
“I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!”
In The Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew records Jesus saying:
“My soul is deeply grieved…My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will…My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
In John, He speaks of His hour and that for this purpose He came for this hour, and when Peter tries to stop it with a sword He says:
“Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”
Jesus came to drink the cup of God’s wrath and suffered under its weight so that those who deserve it will never have to experience it. It was the only way God’s justice could be satisfied and sinful people pardoned. Had there been any other way the cup would have passed from the only begotten and beloved Son of God, but:
“God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us…having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
God is both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus Christ.
Again, to drink the cup was a Jewish idiom which meant to fully experience something, and the something in focus here is suffering:
“You want to be honored in the kingdom? Are you able to drink of the dregs of suffering and be completely immersed in it?”
Notice what they say:
“We are able…”
This is a disproportionate esteem of self, and the Scripture proves it. When the moment of suffering came at Jesus’ arrest we read:
“All the disciples left Him and fled.”
They are clueless as to what they are saying, because they are so caught in pride and honor.
Notice what Jesus says:
“The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.”
In other words, “Rest assured that you will experience suffering because of my Name.”
Consider what Jesus says to them in the gospel of John:
“’A slave is not greater than His master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me.”
James Zebedee was the first apostle to be martyred at the hands of Herod Agrippa I. John Zebedee was boiled alive in oil, miraculously survived, and was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. Realize that all the apostles suffered for Christ:
1.) Peter was crucified upside down after being forced to watch the death of his wife.
2.) Andrew was threatened with crucifixion to no longer speak of Christ, but replied:
“I would not have preached the honor and glory of the cross, if I had feared the death of the cross”.
He was eventually beaten and tied to an “X” shape cross living in agony for two whole days while saying:
“O cross, most welcome and long looked for!”
3.) Philip bled to death after being stripped and hung by his feet only to be supported by stakes being driven through his ankles and thighs.
4.) Nathaniel was flayed alive.
5.) Matthew was killed in Ethiopia by either burning or beheading.
6.) Thomas was slain with a lance while praying.
7.) Jude was killed either by arrows or by being bludgeoned to death.
8.) James was crucified in Egypt.
9.) Simon was either crucified or sawn in two.
They all drank of the cup and were baptized in suffering because they named the name of Christ. Jesus assured them that would happen, but right now they want honor without suffering.
Jesus then says to them:
“To sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those whom it has been prepared.”
What Jesus demonstrates here as the incarnate Son of God is total submission to God the Father. The seats of honor are not His to give, but the Father’s who has prepared them for those who suffer for the sake of Christ. We do not know who will occupy the seats, but we do know it will be those who have drank of the cup of suffering.
The principle here is honor in the kingdom of God is only given to those who suffer. Those that want honor and think they deserve it will not get it. Those that do not even seek honor because they have lost sight of themselves to follow Christ will gain it. The Father will decide who sits where.
IV.) Relinquished Will
We see after Jesus makes this statement the pride of the other disciples is manifested:
“And hearing this, the ten became indignant with James and John.”
They are indignant because they want the seats of honor and they perceive that James and John just beat them to the punch and ruined their chances. They are still consumed with pride and concerned about which of them is greatest, and it is destroying their unity.
Jesus then calls them to Himself and reveals they want honor in the kingdom of God, but they do not want to operate according the kingdoms principles:
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their men exercise authority over them.”
In their prideful thinking, they want the kingdom but they want it run according to the world’s standard. They want this because the world does not just allow their pride to flourish it encourages it and feeds it continually. It beckons them to be so caught up with a skewed view of themselves that they look at others with contempt. They all want to be greater than each other, and they world system promotes it. It allows them to remain as they are.
Jesus reveals their heart and says, “You know this, and it is exactly what you want:”
“But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be the first among you shall be slave of all.”
The greatest is not a ruler, but a servant; and the first is not a lord, but a slave. If you want to be great in God’s kingdom you need to be a Diakonos, a waiter. Live a life serving others, and not being served by them. If you want to be first in God’s kingdom you need to be a Doulos, and when it comes to the scale of servitude this is lowest, it means:
“One who gives himself up to the will of another.”
Live a life enslaved to others.
The answer to why we must do this is clear:
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Christ not only modeled service for you, He purchased you through the giving of His life. He served you by becoming a Man obedient to the Father to the point of death on the cross. On the cross He drank of the cup of His Father’s wrath towards you and shed His blood for your sin and purchase your redemption. He gave of Himself to ransom you from the slavery of sin by His blood. The fact that the grave could not hold Him demonstrated His payment for our sin was accepted by the Father: Ransom paid, Freedom purchased, Atonement made, Wrath appeased, Justice satisfied, Love displayed, Mercy extended, and Grace given.
All of this is experienced by those who turn from their sins and believe on Christ. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
V.) Death by Humility
Do not be ruled by pride:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.”
Instead be ruled by humility and:
“Regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Give yourselves up to the will of others, and live a life enslaved to them in service:
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”
 Colossians 3:12-13
 1 Peter 5:5
 Ephesians 4:2
 Ephesians 4:3
 Philippians 2:3
 Philippians 2:6-8
 Philippians 2:5
 James 4:6
 Proverbs 16:5
 Proverbs 8:13
 Isaiah 2:12
 Mark 9:33-37
 Matthew 19:27
 Mark 10:35
 Mark 9:34
 Matthew 20:20
 Matthew 20:21
 John 19:25
 Mark 15:40
 Matthew 27:56
 Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 23:49
 Mark 10:36-37
 Mark 10:33-34
 Mark 10:38a
 Mark 10:38b
 The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Mark 9-16, John MacArthur; Page 106
 Psalm 11:6
 Psalm 75:8
 Isaiah 51:17
 Jeremiah 25:15
 Luke 12:50
 Matthew 26:38-39,42
 John 12:23,27
 John 18:11
 1 Thessalonians 1:10
 Romans 3:25-26
 Romans 5:8-9
 Matthew 26:56
 Mark 10:39b
 John 15:20; 16:2-3
 Acts 12:2
 Nathanial is also known as Bartholomew.
 Matthew is also known as Levi.
 Jude is also known as Judas, Thaddeus, or Labbaeus.
 Mark 10:40
 Matthew 20:23
 Mark 10:41
 Mark 10:43-44
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 1249
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 1401
 Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary: Of Old and New Testament Words; W.E. Vine; Page 73 (Bondman)
 Mark 10:45
 Philippians 2:3a
 Philippians 2:3b-4
 Philippians 2:6-8