In Mark 10, Jesus demonstrates how He is the perfect sacrifice for all by humbly obeying God the Father through His death and resurrection.
Scripture Interprets Scripture
Immediately after Jesus predicts his crucifixion and death, James and John request to sit at His right and left in glory. Putting the best construction on their petition, the two sons of Zebedee could have intended to serve in Jesus’ spirit of self-sacrifice. Nevertheless, given the reality of sinful nature, it is more likely they sought our Lord’s glory for its own sake. Jesus’ words later in the pericope affirm this conclusion. “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.” (Mark 10:43-44).
Where James and John would assertively request to serve in God’s kingdom for the sake of glory, priests are called by God. As Hebrews explains, the priest made intercessions on behalf of the people before God, not elevating himself over those whom he serves, but rather alongside them, making sacrifices for his own iniquities. Unlike these sinful priests, Jesus presents not animals, oil, or grain, but rather Himself, being a righteous priest for sinners, without the slightest blemish of disobedience. In fact, where other priests call upon animals to suffer in their place, Jesus suffers Himself.
A reading from Psalm 119: 9-16 expands the theme of Jesus as the righteous sacrifice. Whatever success sinners may have in keeping God’s law, they fall wretchedly short of God’s expectations. We look to Jesus to “keep his way pure.” He seeks the Lord with His whole heart that He would not sin against His Father in heaven. To present Himself as the one, final sacrifice for sin, Christ keeps the rules of God’s mouth.
Digging Out the Gems
Παραδοθησεται (will be delivered) in verse thirty-three in the Gospel reading, is a future passive tense of the verb. Although Jesus, being fully God, could have stopped His ministry at any time, He submits to the will of sinners in obedience to God His Father. This passive voice presents an interesting correlation to the nature of animals offered in sacrifice. Animals have no power; they are merely led to the slaughter. To the extent that Jesus suffers passively, reflected in the form of the Greek verb, He reflects the nature of Old Testament sacrifices. Βαπτισθηναι (I am baptized), another passive form, supports the same idea.
Law and Gospel
Firstly, where Jesus comes in humility, with a true sense of service, exemplified in His death and resurrection, James and John seek their own glory. Although we may not seek to sit with Jesus in glory, we are certainly inclined to self-arrogation. This is manifested in the child who claims a special place in his or her parents’ eyes over siblings for the sake of superior grades; the long-tenured church member who exerts informal authority, denigrating those recently received into membership; the spouse who believes his wife is getting the better deal in marriage.
Secondly, sinners under-appreciate their distance from the Lord’s righteousness. Psalm 119: 9-16 describes Christ’s perfection not only in obedience to the law, but also passion for it. We minimize our sin and present our wretched merit and filthy works to the Lord. In the great exchange, Jesus lives a perfect life in our place, keeping the commandments perfectly with zeal for the Lord’s house. Through faith, we receive this spotless record. Jesus, on the other hand, takes our failure to the cross and suffers the death we deserve. In this way, God keeps His covenant, as Jeremiah relates, to remember our sins no more.
Preaching and Teaching
Consider these sermon or Bible study themes:
1) Like James and John, sinners pursue glory. Jesus embraces humility to serve sinners on the cross.
2) Sinners present their merit and good works as an offering to the Lord. Christ offers Himself as all sufficient sacrifice.
This analogy below may prove useful to illustrate the concept of the great exchange presented above: Someone had to come and live a perfect life in our place. My life is an “F’ on the test of obedience. You have failed to live sinlessly. Here is the great exchange. Through faith you receive Jesus’ “A.” God counts His perfect life on your record. What is more, Jesus takes my “F”; God places it on our Lord’s records. He took your “F” and suffered and died on the cross to pay for it.
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