GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 36
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2011|
|God never promised us the Christian life would be a bed of roses, but what would we do if we really knew what we might face as Christians in this world?|
Centrality of Gospel in Christian Life
The title of the message this morning is this: Ignorance is Bliss but Not Blessed. As we’ll see this morning, although ignorance is bliss, it’s not blessed in the economy of God. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 10:35. The Word of the Lord:
“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ 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?’ 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, 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.’ And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 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. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”
Let me give you the three progressions, kind of the overarching progressions, of the text. The first one is this. I want you to notice the intention behind the request. Let’s kind of get into the mind of the two disciples—James and John—and let’s look at the intention of the request. And, mainly, they had the wrong motive. Do you see it? They had the wrong motive. Right before James and John asked Jesus to write them a blank check, Jesus just got finished telling them what? Do you see it in the text? Look at verse 32: that he’s going to die, be persecuted, killed, raised from the dead on the third day. And so they see an opportunity for real estate here. They see an opportunity for position and for power. And so they come to Jesus and they say Jesus, we have a question to ask you.
Now, notice their question doesn’t connect with Jesus’ prediction. You would think they’d be concerned about our Lord. I mean, Jesus, is there anything we can do for you? You’re about to die. Jesus, what can we do to help your future or prepare you for your fate? But no, not a word. Not a question about Jesus, because they’re too interested in who? Themselves. They’re interested in their position. And I love what Jesus does. In humility, he responds to them. He says, what do you want me to do? You almost get the sense that the brothers are relying on their influence here. I mean, they were the first to be picked by Jesus. They were the ones who went to the Mount of Transfiguration. They will be the ones who go to the Garden of Gethsemane. But the focus is not on the Lord Jesus Christ. The focus is on themselves. That was their motive.
Secondly, notice the second problem. They had the wrong focus. They had the wrong motive and they had the wrong focus. Jesus said, okay, what do you want me to do? I love Jesus. He doesn’t attack them. He doesn’t rebuke them. He says, okay, what do you want me to do? And they said, we want you to grant one of us to sit at the right hand and one of us to sit at the left hand. Since they were giving out seats, Jesus, we want the choice seats. Now, notice the right hand would be the highest position. The left hand would be lesser but it’d still be on the platform. And they’re saying, Jesus, we want you to help us. We don’t want to get messy. We don’t want to work for anything. We want the easy road. Jesus, can you help us out here? After all, Jesus, you did pick us first.
Now, in their defense, the disciples are coming off the heels in Matthew of Jesus saying to them that they will judge the world. Go to Matthew 19. It’s the same account but moments before, Jesus tells them something and so they’re just reminding Jesus of what he just said to them. Look at verse 28 of chapter 19: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’” So you can’t really blame them. I mean, Jesus just said when I come in glory, you guys will sit there. But they didn’t realize they have to walk the road of suffering to get there.
What about you? Are you seeking your own glory or are you seeking the glory of God? Where’s your focus in the Christian life? Is it on your accolades and your accomplishments and your successes, your motives? Your focus is on you, or is it on the glory of God? As we’ll see next week, the story of Bartimaeus next week and this week of James and John are so interconnected. This week we see two people who misunderstood the identity of Christ and the ministry of Christ. And next week we’ll see a man who, although he’s blind, could actually see. See, James and John are focusing on fame. Bartimaeus next week will focus on faith. See, James and John are focusing on sitting at the right hand in glory. Bartimaeus is focusing on stooping down in humility. You’ll have to come next week to hear how God interacts with this man and how he follows him.
But we notice right out the gate the intention behind the motive or the intention behind the request and it’s the wrong motive and the wrong focus. Secondly, write this down. They didn’t stop there. They had ignorance when it came to their restraint. Ignorance of their restraint. They didn’t realize their inabilities and so they speak out without thinking. Look at verse 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?’” And what do the disciples say? We’re able Lord! If anybody can do it, we think we can do it. First of all, they don’t recognize their inability. Write it down; their inability.
I love the way Jesus handles the request, with humility and care. He doesn’t get on to them, doesn’t rebuke them. But Jesus is saying, Listen, you have to count the cost before you speak. See, in the Old Testament, the cup was significant of two things. In the Old Testament, the cup could be joy and prosperity. My cup is overflowing with joy and prosperity. On the other hand, and more often than not, the cup symbolized the wrath of God. And in this case, what Jesus us saying is the cup that I will drink is the wrath of God or the judgment of God reserved for sinners, but I will bear that upon my own body. See, the idea of drinking is that Jesus will be the one to drink the cup, and Jesus is the only one who could drink the cup. Mortal men cannot drink the cup. It was both Jesus as God and man who was able to drink the cup.
And then he goes on. He says, I’m going to be baptized as well. And we don’t know exactly what he’s talking about, but I think he’s saying this: that he’s identifying with the solidarity of sinners, that he will go through before we will be identified with him as well. When Jesus says can you drink the cup, the resounding answer is what? No. You can’t drink the cup. See, the way to eternal glory is not through worldly success. That’s what he’s saying. Success will come for you guys through suffering. Don’t you remember what I just told you guys just earlier? If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross and what? Follow me. The disciples don’t understand that.
Did you ever think that maybe God uses suffering in our lives as a divine instrument to conform us to the image of Christ? That God maybe using right now accidents or sickness or disease in your life, losing your job, the death of a family member, emotional duress as one of his powerful tools to conform you into his own image; in essence, to bring you to a place where you realize that you’re not able but that he is able.
See, the disciples had realized that they could do something and they had misunderstood their own ability. But secondly, they misunderstood God’s authority. They misunderstood God’s authority. “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, but to sit at my right hand or my left hand….’” That is only reserved for the Father. That’s what he’s saying. It’s been prepared beforehand, before the foundation of the world. You have no choice in that.
See, although the disciples can’t exactly drink the same drink and be baptized with the same baptism, they will go through suffering. And what Jesus is saying is simply this: the consequence for following me is suffering. Now that’s a foreign concept to you and I. See, because you and I live in a world today where, when we are suffering or persecuted for the gospel, it’s abnormal or surprising, right? But in the first century when the disciples were not being persecuted and suffering, that was abnormal. Right? Think about it. But for us it’s just the opposite.
Jesus said to follow me means to walk the road of suffering. Guys, you will suffer. And we know the end of the story. James would be the first apostle to be martyred in Acts 12:2. And then John. John wasn’t martyred, but John would go and be exiled on the isle of Patmos and die alone by himself. They will experience their share of suffering.
But what Jesus shows us is pretty amazing. He says God has not given me the right to divvy up responsibility or position. It’s not mine to give. It’s God’s. And we kind of sense the providence of God in the text. He said it’s God who is the one who gives. You don’t follow me for power. You don’t follow me for position. You don’t follow me to pastor a big church. You don’t follow me to have a bed of roses. You don’t follow me to be successful in the world. You don’t follow me to have all the things you ever wanted in life. You follow me, period. Any questions? That’s what he says. You follow me period. That’s the ability of God. You guys have misunderstood that.
But you’ve also isolated yourself. They didn’t recognize their ability; they didn’t recognize God’s authority; and, finally, they didn’t recognize their isolation by asking this request. Look what it says the other ten standing there did. They were indignant with them. How could you ask this question? But you know what they were probably really thinking in their own heart? Why didn’t we ask that question? I mean, why weren’t we first to the punch, right? Why didn’t we come up with that? You almost sense their inhibition. They wanted to ask that question, but they missed the point because James and John beat them to the punch. This is bothersome for them because it separated them from the intimate fellowship that they had with Christ in a group. We understand the disciples’ mistakes.
Up to this point, we’ve seen in the text—notice this—the intention behind the request; we’ve seen, secondly, the ignorance of their restraint; write down, thirdly, the importance of the disciples’ role. This is where I’ll camp out for the rest of the time. Because I think this is one of the most important if not the most important verse in all of Mark if not one of the most important verses in all of the Bible. The importance of the disciples’ role. And before Jesus gets to the heart of the matter—Mark 10:45, which is the key text in the whole book of Mark—he sets it up with three things.
Notice what he says. First of all, if you guys want to follow me, you need to reject worldly attitudes or attitudes of the world. You need to reject the attitudes of the world. Now, it’s going to take you and I to really question our own life right now to see if we’re following the ways of the world and not the ways of Christ. Verse 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 [they control you; they put their thumb on you and hold you down], and their great ones exercise authority over them.’”
Jesus is redefining greatness in the eyes of God. And this is what he’s saying. The self-satisfying, the self-advancing, the self-giving, the self-promoting attitude of the world is not glorifying to God. This is the upside down kingdom and what he’s saying is this. People in the world seek power and prestige. They’re constantly stepping on others to get ahead. They’re constantly putting their finger on other people to hold them down so that they get all the glory, they get all the success.
And God says you cannot act that way if you’re a believer. You cannot act that way, he says, because the kingdom of God is different. True greatness in the kingdom of heaven is humble, selfless service to another person. Friends, we have to remember time is short, eternity is long. Use your time wisely to serve God and to serve others while you’re here. Jesus was the one who exemplified that.
But see, friends, this business mindset of trying to succeed in the world isn’t just exclusively reserved for the lay people in the church. It happens in the church by pastors and preachers. Some pastors get into the ministry and they want the success of the ministry. They want people to give them the authority that they’re due. They want to make a lot of money. They want to pastor big churches. They want to climb the ecclesiastical ladder to get to the top. Right? Stepping on one church to another church to get to the top.
It happens all the time because congregations can fall in the same trap. The people of God can come to church and tell people, we have the greatest programs. We have the greatest preaching. We have the greatest music. We have the biggest buildings in town. Right? We have the best mission trips that you can go on. And then what happens is this: carnal, immature Christians will flock to a show to be a part of something big, right? I mean, we inherently want to be a part of something big. But, friends, that’s not what the church of Jesus Christ is about. You and I need to be excited to fight for the gospel.
Yes, our church is being blessed at Brainerd Baptist Church. Praise God. But we have to remember the reason our church is being blessed. It’s not because of me or the people or the choir or the music. It’s because the favor of God is upon our church and we have to remember to give him the glory. The moment we start thinking it’s about us, God will take his hand off of this church, right? Because the body of Christ needs to celebrate what God is doing. We’re not the only church in town that God’s moving in. Sometimes we think that right? We’re not. And we need to celebrate other churches that are preaching the gospel. Right? We can align ourselves with other churches that are preaching the gospel and we need to pray for other churches preaching the gospel and we need to partner with other churches preaching the gospel.
I recently heard, it seems like a carnal Christian, say these word to one of our members, There’s a new pastor in town. When he comes in town, he’s going to clear all the members of Silverdale and Brainerd Baptist out. Is God pleased with that? Is God honored with that attitude? Friends, it’s not about us building a kingdom here at Brainerd Baptist so that we can climb the ladder of success. See, the problem with that thinking is that it’s fleeting. See, the job that you’ve aspired to will one day be gone. The position that you hold will one day go away. The money that you have will one day be depleted. The accolades and the achievements that hold on to will one day be gone. And even if you think you’ve met the world’s definition of what it means to be great, that will one day go too. You know why? Because there’ll be another trophy to get. There’ll be more money to make. There’ll be another job to achieve to and to acquire.
Friends, Jesus said don’t follow the ways of the world. That’s why we need to, secondly, reflect the humility of Christ. That’s the flipside. We need to reject the worldly attitude of the world not only in the world but in the church and you need to reflect the humility of Christ. Look at verse 43: “But it shall not be so among you.”
You know what he’s saying to us this morning? If you’re thinking that way, you need to repent. You need to get rid of that thinking. It’s not biblical. “But whoever would be great among you must be servant [of all], and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”
And that is the key term in the text. I want to camp out there. We don’t have a lot of time but let me take the two terms. Servant of all. That is the Greek word for what? Deacon. Diakonos, right? The deacons are the chief servants in the church. Now, the word deacon, before Jesus used it, was a menial, lowly position. Nobody ascribed to the diakonos position. And then Jesus comes along and takes this lowly position and he raises it up and he gives it great significance, and he says to be great is to be a deacon, to be a servant.
But notice Jesus takes it a step further. If it wasn’t intensified enough, Jesus intensifies it even more and he drops another leg down on the ladder and he says, You just don’t need to be a servant. You need to be a slave. Jesus, what are you thinking? Is that what you really mean? A slave? A doulos? See, the difference between a servant and a slave was this: A servant was someone who could come and go as they wanted. A servant maybe owned property or maybe had property. They had a place to stay. They had material possessions. They may have owned clothes. But a slave owned nothing. A slave had no rights. See a slave only came and went when the master allowed it. The slave, when he was bought, gave up everything and could only go or do what the master told him to go and to do.
Isn’t it amazing that the apostle Paul, of all the words to describe himself in the Bible, when he’s writing letters to the churches and to the world, chooses the word doulos or slave? Isn’t it amazing? In the book of Romans, in the book of Philippians, and in the book of Titus, listen to what Paul says as he speaks of this word. He says I, Paul, a bondservant… That’s the wrong translation, I think. John MacArthur just wrote a great book called Slave and he argues that the word servant, doulos, that we’ve translated doulos, politically to keep right with the world should be slave. I, Paul, a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ…. Why are we slaves? Because we’ve been bought with a price.
See, you’re not your own anymore, the Bible says. You’ve been bought with a price so your allegiance is to the Lord. True greatness in the kingdom of God is not the one who is the most gifted or the most talented. True greatness in the kingdom of God is the man or woman who serves and is a slave by humbling himself to other people; going to the most difficult ministries, serving in the most uncomfortable places, serving in the most challenging and demanding ministries of the church.
William Barclay says, “The world [don’t miss this] the world may assess the man’s greatness by the number of people in whom he controls and the number of whom are at his beck and call or by his intellectual standing and his academic imminence or by the number of committees in which he’s a member or the size of his bank account or the material possessions which he has amassed. But in the assessment of the Lord Jesus Christ, all those things are irrelevant. All those things mean nothing to the Lord.”
Do you serve others? Or are you interested in yourself? That’s what Jesus is saying. To be a follower of me, you need to put God first, others second, self third. How are we going to do this, Robby? This is hard to do. I have to admit it’s hard for me to do this because I’m selfish, right? I’m prideful. I want what I want. You know what the Lord showed me interesting about pride? Pride isn’t just boasting in oneself. Pride comes in when you’re impatient. You ever get impatient? You have any kids? The Lord showed me pride is impatience because impatience is not getting your way because I want it done now. I want it done my way. And God revealed to me just recently that’s pride. So, Robby, how do we do this? How do we reflect the humility of Christ? How do we reject worldly attitudes?
Notice how Jesus finishes. Write it down, it’s not in your outline. We remember the sacrifice of Jesus. That’s it. If Jesus would have just left us hanging with be a servant, be a slave, we would be asking the question well, now do we do that? That would be the question the disciples would have asked. Well, how do we do this? Jesus says, Look no further. Look to who? Look to me: “the Son of Man [did not come] to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a [key term here] ransom for many.”
Jesus Christ said, I didn’t come to be served. If anyone had the right to be served, waited on hand and foot, it was the Creator of the world. Don’t you agree? I mean, if anyone walked around and said, Grab my coat or pick up my shoes or get me something to drink, He would have had every right to exercise his rights. But we can meditate on this verse for days and still not understand the weight of it. Jesus said I didn’t come to be served but I came to serve. Even though I created every creature, even though I created every tree, every star, every planet in the sky, I did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped. But I humbled myself, taking on the form of a servant. Being found in the likeness of men and being found in the likeness of man, I humbled myself [that’s what Jesus did] being obedient to point of death, even death on a cross. And because I humbled myself, God therefore has highly exalted me.
That’s what Jesus would say. He humbled himself so that God could exalt him. You know it’s one thing just to serve another brother or sister. It’s another thing to serve by giving your life for someone else. That’s what the Lord did. John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than one lay down his life for his friends.”
Joe Delaney was a star football player for the Kansas City Chiefs many years ago. And when he was home, he saw a bunch of kids playing in the water out in the back of his house and he noticed that the kids were drowning. Now, Delaney wasn’t a good swimmer and so he decided to do the only thing he knew to do and he just jumped in. He took his shoes off and he jumped in. He tried to save the three boys. In the process of trying to save the three boys, one of the boys got free, made it to the land and two of the boys and Delaney died in the water. An ultimate sacrifice of his life to save one.
That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t just save one. Jesus died to save all, right? Jesus died to save us. Jesus gave his life as a ransom for others. He simply didn’t do it as an example of others. Jesus’ dying wasn’t just a godly, selfless act, although it was. It wasn’t for a godly cause or a claim. It wasn’t for a selfless act for people to look at. Jesus Christ died as a ransom for others. You and I couldn’t die for ourselves, because this is why: If you and I die in our sin, we die for our sin and if we die for our sin, we pay the price of sin which, the wages of sin is what? Death.
Now Jesus, keeping with the slave theme, adds this one word. Did you catch it? Slave ransom. That word ransom is rich in meaning. It’s the term that means to pay a price for a slave to be freed. That’s what it is. It’s the price you put down. It’s money on the table to free this brother or this sister from the bondage of being owned by this man. But see, the problem with us is this: we don’t truly understand the redemption price. Because see, in the first century, you paid a price for someone and you didn’t just set the slave free. The slave changed ownership, right? What did Jesus do for us? Jesus realized that you and I were slaves to self, Satan, and sin and he came and paid the ultimate ransom in exchange for sinners. Romans 8:1 says it best, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death.” Listen to Romans 6:18: “Now we, having been set free from sin [here it is] have become slaves of righteousness.”
So, Robby, what are you saying? You and I have been set free from sin and Satan to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because Jesus Christ paid the debt to set you free. When a man pays the debt to set you free from bondage, you are connected to him. Your allegiance is to that man. You’re not free to go serve yourself. You’re not free to go serve in the world. You are indebted to the man who paid the price. And Jesus didn’t just put money on the table. Jesus just didn’t bring possessions to the place. He said, I’m going to put my life on the line to set you free. And Jesus set us free when we were justified, born again, and adopted into the family of God. We went from being slaves to sin, self and Satan and we’re now slaves to a different Master and our allegiance is to Christ.
James Montgomery Boice says it best, “There’s no such thing as absolute freedom in this world for anyone. No one is absolutely free, he said. No human being is free to do anything he or she may want to do. There is only one Being in this universe Who is totally free and that is God. But all others are limited by or enslaved by someone or something. And as a result, the only meaningful question in this area is this, who or what are you serving? Since you and I are human beings and not God, we can never be autonomous. We must either be slaves to sin or slaves to Jesus. But here’s the wonderful and very striking concept about this truth. To be a slave to Jesus is to be truly free.”
Friends, God doesn’t care about your money if he doesn’t have your heart. God doesn’t care about what you own and who are today in the world and the success you’ve achieved if he doesn’t have your heart. See God wants us to give ourselves completely to him. He wants us to fall at his feet and say, God I’ll go wherever you want me to go, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. See, when we give ourselves completely to him, then and only then will we see what true greatness is about. Perhaps you need to admit today to God something like this, God in my attempt for worldly standards, take away all my human accomplishments. God, take away all my prideful accolades. God, take away my self-promoting titles. Take away my worldly honor. And I truly want to be great in your kingdom.