As Christians, we must see more than the fact of the cross. We must also come to know and understand the demeanor exhibited by Christ as He went to the cross. This alone enables us to make sense of the glory which follows the cross in the resurrection.
“And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. . . .” (Mark 10:32-45).
This passage contains the third prediction of His passion that Christ gives to all His disciples. They were traveling to Jerusalem, and Jesus sets Himself to go there in such a way that amazes and unsettles His disciples (v. 32). But as subsequent events show, being afraid is not the same as being humbled. Jesus took the twelve, and began (in greater detail) to inform them of what would happen in Jerusalem. Everything stated here came to pass (vv. 33-34). He was delivered to the chief priests (14:53), He was sentenced to death (14:64), He was delivered to the Romans (15:1,10), He was mocked, spit upon, and scourged (14:65; 15:15-20), He was executed (15:20-39,44), and He was raised from the dead (16:1-8). Because the Scriptures cannot be broken, Jesus saw it all coming.
Having just outlined and explained His road to glory, culminating in the resurrection, He is approached by James and John with a question that reveals how little they understood. That they were perhaps aware of the impropriety of their request is seen in how they phrased it (v. 35). We learn from Matthew that their mother was involved in this also. Jesus does not write blank checks, and asks them their request (v. 36). Their desire is to be on His right hand and left hand in His glory, which they assumed was just around the corner. They thought it was now the time for prizes and crowns, when they had not yet entered the arena (v. 37). The right and left hand were soon to be occupied by two thieves on two crosses.
Christ does not rebuke them overtly, but only by implication. He says that they are asking for far more than they know (v. 38). They wanted the position in glory; did they want to travel the road which actually goes there? (v. 38). The cup and the baptism of Christ are overwhelming. Are they up to that? In their ignorance they say they are. Surprisingly, Jesus says that they will in fact drink that cup, and be baptized with that baptism (v. 39). But as far as the seats of honor are concerned, that has already been settled by another (v. 40).
The other disciples are peeved, but not at the spiritual pride involved. They are bothered that the two got there first with this request (v. 41). Humility abhors pride, but remember, pride also abhors pride. Humility hates the sin; pride hates the competition. The disciples have already quarreled once about who was the greatest. Jesus heads off another dispute by calling them together and teaching them by a negative example (v. 42). In the flesh, men rule and are ruled according to a certain fashion. Rulers rule, dominate, lord it over. But the Lord says it is not to be this way among His followers. In the kingdom, it is not to be so. Rule is genuine in the church, but qualification for rule is revealed by service (which is not the same thing as taking the name of servant). The one striving for greatness must therefore strive to be a servant (v. 44).
The Son of Man did not come to be waited on, but rather to minister. The heart of this ministry was His substitutionary death on the cross as ransom on behalf of many (v. 45). This being the case, those who preach this gospel must be motivated the same way as the Lord of the gospel was motivated. The power of the gospel is most clearly revealed in its element.