Red Letter Year: 2/11

Mark 10:32-52

32 They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus once more began to describe everything that was about to happen to him. 33 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. 34 They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.”

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.”

36 “What is your request?” he asked.

37 They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

38 But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?”

39 “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”

Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. 40 But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

41 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.


The juxtaposition between Jesus (yet again) warning the disciples about his impending execution and James and John asking to sit on either side of his throne could not be more stark. Mark has mentioned this ongoing argument/jockeying for position more than once before, but here we finally are given a specific instance of certain disciples trying to position themselves above the rest. But Jesus will have none of it. He promises them nothing and then launches into one of the most ignored (in practical terms) of all Jesus’ teachings: the call to servant leadership. Those who lead the church are her servants, not her masters, leading for the sake of others, not for personal gain. The very next story is an interesting follow up. Non-servant leaders follow the example of the crowd here, telling those in need to sit down and be quiet and learn to accept your sorry lot in life. They are too busy elbowing for throne room position to help the one in need. But this is not how Jesus leads, not how he directs his leaders to lead. The kingdom of God doesn’t come in through sitting on a throne. The kingdom of God breaks in when the blind man is healed. The kingdom of God breaks in when the hungry are fed, the thirsty given a drink, the sick and imprisoned are visited. The kingdom of God breaks in when demons are thrown out of people’s lives, when marriages are restored, when bodies are healed, when old psychological wounds (too often wrought by some church) are healed.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

One thought on “Red Letter Year: 2/11

  1. I was looking at Jesus’s answer to James and John question in verse 38. “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?”

    Do we really understand the intensity of this. Are we willing to suffer the pain, humiliation and death that Jesus experienced?

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