In Mark 10, Jesus is traveling with his disciples to Jerusalem and along the way he takes another opportunity to tell them plainly what is ahead — Jesus will be betrayed, condemned, mocked, spit on, scourged, killed, and three days later come back to life.
Instead of showing grave concern for Jesus’ person, James and John show groveling concern for Jesus’ popularity. So that as Jesus speaks plainly about his suffering, James and John lead all of Jesus’ disciples to pursue plainly Jesus' glory.
People are natural glory seekers. We are born this way. Plainly put, we crave attention. We go from playground "Daddy, look at me!" to Facebook "Everyone look at me.” We begin life crying in the crib until someone picks us up only to reach the point in life where we pout if we don't get invited to so-and-so's wedding. We are nervous if we don’t have the same model cellphone as our friends, and we are crushed that our children's mistakes might make us look bad as parents. We are pathetic glory seekers.
By nature, you and I are no different than James and John. We share the sin condition naturally … to self promote, self gratify, self serve, self glorify. In their ambition for glory James and John are conceiving to make a business deal with God himself. And their sin nature gives voice to the old Adam in them throwing out bids to God as though life with Jesus is some sort of auction. James and John bid high — "We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."
"... 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?'"
By “this cup” Jesus refers to the bitter contents of suffering and by “baptism” Jesus refers to the painful realities of suffering. And not just any, ordinary suffering. Jesus is referring to the suffering ahead for him at the hand of God himself.
Why would God make Jesus suffer? Because God is a holy God without sin and cannot tolerate sin. And God is a jealous God who will not share his glory with any other. So because God is holy and jealous he is at war with glory seekers. Glory seeking is sin. Glory seekers are sinners. Divine justice demands that sinners pay for their sin. And the price for sin is physical death and eternal damnation.
Except, God is not only holy and jealous and just. He is loving. And so he conceived a business deal — with himself. In life’s auction God made the highest bid. He would become human to be among sinners. He would suffer, die, and be damned, in the place of sinners. And so Jesus did all of that, in your place and in mine. Where we naturally self-glorify, Jesus, God, humbled himself, denied himself, sacrificed himself. Jesus looked to his father and inasmuch said, "God, I will do for you whatever you ask of me." And this is why God made Jesus suffer. Someone had to pay for our sin. And so we wouldn’t have to pay God, he asked Jesus to pay. And so Jesus did.
Naively James and John claim they are able to suffer Jesus’ suffering and Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on my right or on my left, this is not mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.'"
In other words, the way to glory and greatness in the kingdom of God is not by some business transaction between God and sinners. The way to greatness in the kingdom of God is only along the path of suffering.
This means something much more than physical or emotional pain. This ultimately means you and I have got to die with Jesus Christ. How is this possible? Romans 6:3 says in Baptism we have died with Jesus Christ and his suffering becomes our suffering.
And it’s for a blessed purpose. Romans 6:4-5 says Jesus’ suffering becomes our suffering so that we not only share in Jesus’ death suffering but also in his resurrection glory!
This is the path to real glory. Not the glory of being first or on the top or getting credit or taking and winning or getting noticed and approved by people. The path to real glory is getting noticed and approved by God in Jesus’ resurrection.
This means God doesn’t leave us as pathetic glory-seekers. Romans 6:6-11 says God remedies our glory-seeking nature by forgiving our sins. Where time and again our sin nature gives voice to the old Adam in us, “God we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you,” time and again our faith gives voice to the new man in us, “God, be merciful to me a glory-seeking sinner.” And the good news is by God’s grace and mercy, time and again, he forgives our sins. Jesus is our glory!
Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.