On today’s feast celebrating St. James the Elder, we read a devotion from Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary: Mark.
In the Gospel for today, we hear James and his brother ask to be seated beside Jesus in His kingdom (Mark 10:37). Like James and his brother, we, too, often set our eyes on our own glory and honor, rather than on our Savior. We thank God that despite our self-centered sinfulness, Christ came to earth, laying aside His own glory to bring us eternal life and salvation.
Introduction to 10:35–45 Three times Jesus predicts His death, and now for a third time He also has to correct the disciples as to true greatness and status in His kingdom (9:34–37; 10:13–16). In the face of Jesus’ incomparable sacrifice (10:33–34), the disciples can still argue over their place and share of glory in His kingdom. Jesus does not destroy their pretensions or lord over them. Instead He invites them to consider His coming sacrifice and to define greatness as a life given away.
10:35 do for us whatever we ask. Jesus has just predicted again His willingness to do that for which we would never ask, His death and resurrection. Yet, discounting that, the brothers hope to steal the march on the others and secure a favored place within the Kingdom. They look for a decision before they ask the question. They were either sure of Jesus’ agreement, or they wanted to lock Him into agreement before revealing their plan.
10:36 what do you want Me to do for you? Jesus’ patience in asking about things He already knows is always remarkable. He asks them what they want as a final chance to re-think this request, or to judge it for themselves as they announce it. If only they could hear its impatient selfishness, they might take it back. However, they boldly move ahead with their asking.
10:38 you do not know what you are asking. The confusion of the disciples continues. While they had previously not understood what they were hearing (4:10–13; 9:32), now they are wrong in their asking. Jesus asks them the following questions, knowing they will not understand that He is speaking of His death which He alone will bear.
10:40 not mine to grant. The heavenly Father makes the decision over who sits in places of glory. The disciples can have little grasp over the true glory of heaven and those who are properly seated before them. In seeking these places, the disciples are acting out the worst behavior from the parable of the wedding feast (Lk 14:7–11). They race to the front seats only to be sent to the bottom in view of those greater than themselves. When the seventy-two disciples went out, they came back rejoicing over their success against the demons. But Jesus cautioned them to rejoice instead that their names are written in heaven (Lk 10:20). So here also rejoice that you will have a place in the Kingdom without regard to who is seated above or below.
10:44 whoever would be first. Again, Jesus speaks in the language of competitive advantage, catching the interest of the disciples. In Christ’s kingdom, positions of authority carried a servant’s job. The best role is to be a servant who speaks of the true Lord: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Co 4:5). slave of all. This slave serves all but his master is not any man, but the Son of Man. He is a servant with a single Lord, and he is sent to care for the Master’s own children.
10:35–45 in Devotion and Prayer Jesus puts our welfare and needs ahead of His own as He conducts His ministry, showing us what real leadership is. Jesus shows that those who lead in the kingdom of God serve others in humility. He leads by laying down His life as the sacrifice for our sins and calls us to similar sacrifice.
Devotional reading is adapted from Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary: Mark pages 191–94 © 2013 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Dear Father, You have sent Christ to serve us, although He had the right to demand our service. Forgive us, Father. Lead us to give ourselves for the sake of others, that we, being last, might truly be first with Jesus in His kingdom. Amen.
Prayer is from Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary: Mark page 194 © 2013 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.