April 2, 2017
With the advent of smart phones and tablets many things have changed. This week I heard that an app on your smart phone may replace the ATM card as a means of security when you need to get cash. You access the ATM through your smart phone. It’s amazing.
But the down side of smart phones and tablets is that our eyes tend to be riveted to our phones and tablets. Instead of focusing attention on the people talking with us, we are looking at our phones. It’s hard to pull away. You see this everywhere.
This morning we are in Mk.10:32-52. In these verses we are, again pointed to Jesus, the Christ. Just as people can spend hours looking at their smart phone or tablet, I would like to suggest that we really need to shift the focus of our attention. From this passage let me say that disciples of Jesus have their eyes riveted on Jesus.
I. JESUS LEADS THE WAY FOR ALL WHO FOLLOW HIM. Mk.10:32-34
We have been following Jesus in his ministry in northern Israel. But in 10:17 we learn that Jesus sets out on “his journey.” Mark does not detail every twist and turn of that journey, however in 10:32 we learn for the first time that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. The reason they were going up is because Jerusalem is built on a mountain.
In Mark’s gospel, there are three passages in which Jesus clearly tells his disciples what is going to happen to him. The first passage is found in 8:31. The second is found in 9:31, and the third is found in the passage we are looking at. In all three passages Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection. On each occasion when Jesus says these things it appears that his disciples have other agendas in mind. In Mk.8 Peter takes the Lord aside and rebukes him. Peter knows better. In Mk.9 the disciples begin arguing about who among them is the greatest. Here in Mk.10 James and John come to Jesus with a selfish request that we will look at in a moment.
Again, in Mk.9 we learn that the disciples were afraid of what Jesus said. Here in Mk.10:32 we see that they were amazed and afraid as they saw Jesus heading to Jerusalem. In light of what Jesus had been telling them it did not seem prudent to go to Jerusalem. In these verses Jesus gives more details about what will happen in Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders will condemn him and the Gentiles will kill him. He will be mocked, spit on, flogged, killed, and then rise from the dead.
Two other observations: Note that Jesus is walking ahead of them on the road. Jesus the Messiah, God’s anointed king, is leading the way to certain death. And notice what he says in v.33. “We are going up to Jerusalem.” And I can just hear the disciples saying, “Wait, did he say, ‘We are going?’” They were afraid.
These verses indicate just what kind of King Jesus is and what he expects of those who would be his disciples. He is out in front, leading. It is true that there was a growing sense of dread in Jesus, himself. In Lk.12:50 Jesus says, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” He is referring to the cross. Despite the knowledge of his approaching suffering and death, Jesus leads the way.
Of course, this presents a decision for all who profess to be followers of Jesus. Will we go with him? In taking up our cross we are not alone. We are not without direction. The Lord Jesus goes before us. He is leading many sons to glory, as the writer of Hebrews says.
Reginal Heber, English bishop of Calcutta who died at 42 years old in 1826, is known for writing the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” In another hymn that he wrote, the first stanza says, “The Son of God goes forth to war, a kingly crown to gain; his blood red banner streams afar: who follows in his train? Who best can drink his cup of woe, triumphant over pain, who patient bears his cross below, he follows in his train.”
Following Jesus is serious business, not because Jesus is a hard task master who seeks to make our lives difficult. Jesus invites all to take up his yoke which is easy. He says that his burden is light. The difficulties come from living the Christ life in this world that is under the thumb of the evil one. Why would anyone sign up for this kind of life, dying to self and the world? We will see in a few moments. The question is, are you on board? Are you following Jesus on the road? Are your eyes riveted on Jesus our King?
II. JESUS MODELS THE LIFE FOR ALL WHO FOLLOW HIM. Mk.10:35-45
Don’t you just love their statement in v.35? “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Who would say such a thing to Jesus? All of us. Jesus asks them, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” After hearing Jesus say these very sobering things, James and John come to Jesus with a request like this? Where did that request come from? Well, it came from a self-centered view of discipleship. Despite what Jesus said, they were thinking that he was going to overthrow Roman occupation and set up a new kingdom of Israel. They did not understand his words. My sense is that in their minds they imagined a battle with Rome and certain victory. James and John realized that there was an opportunity that needed to be seized upon. If Jesus was going to be Israel’s next king, surely he would need advisors on his right and left. James and John were ready to assume those important positions.
Their concept of discipleship was rooted in worldly ideas. Let me point out that this is not unlike the prosperity preachers of our day. They preach that if you are a follower of Jesus you will prosper in terms of wealth, possessions, and health, along with heaven when you die. You are a child of the king and the king wants to give you only the best. Open your ears! This is not the gospel Jesus preached.
But isn’t it encouraging for us to see that even though their understanding of discipleship was self-centered, Jesus still brought them along? All of us have self-centered ideas of discipleship in one way or another. Jesus continues to lead, teach and use us. In v.38 Jesus says, “You guys don’t have a clue. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” “Yes,” they say. Jesus informs them that those positions are not his to grant.
Of course the other disciples are indignant that James and John would try to lock in these seats of honor for themselves. Their indignation reveals their own self-centered discipleship to Jesus. So Jesus calls them all together for a lesson about living life in the kingdom of God.
In these verses Jesus identifies the general way that leadership is expressed in the world. It is about dominance, authority, power, and position. We see it played out in the gang wars of our cities, in the party politics of Chicago, Springfield, and Washington. We see it portrayed on the television and movies. We see it in the world of sports. We see it in business. And we even see it in our churches and our seminaries as they compete for numbers. We are not talking about the desire to be the best you can be. We are talking about the desire to be better than others and to be promoted over others. We are not talking about receiving a promotion. We are talking about maneuvering for an edge over others in order to get that promotion. We are not talking about having authority. We are talking about using authority to secure our lives at the expense of others. Whenever that kind of thinking and desiring motivates us, we are not in the way of Jesus.
And Jesus makes that very clear. “It shall not be so among you.” A more accurate translation says, “It is not this way among you.” In other words, “This is not the way we role in the kingdom of God.” The way of the kingdom of God is the way of service. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” The word is deacon. It means to wait on tables. In the kingdom of God the great people are those who are at the beck and call of others, waiting to serve. And just to be clear Jesus adds that if you want to be first, in the kingdom of God you must be last. You must be a slave of all. This is why when graduation takes place at Taylor University in Indiana, every graduate receives a towel along with their diploma. Followers of Christ carry the towel of service.
But this is not just a principle for Jesus’ disciples. This is the way of Jesus himself. He came into the world to serve and to give his life as a ransom, a payment for all who will have him as Savior, Lord, and King. What does Jesus ransom us from? He ransoms us from the power of sin. He ransoms us from our slavery to sin. He ransoms us from the guilt of our sin, in order that we may be liberated to eternal living in Christ. He was despised and rejected. He humbled himself, taking the form of a slave, dying a slave’s death on the cross.
If you have entered into the life of Jesus, it means you embrace the way of Jesus’ life. We cannot separate the life he is giving us from the life he is living in us. In Gal.2:20 Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” His life becomes our life. Jesus is not asking his disciples to try a little harder next time. He is challenging his disciples to attend to him. We must rivet our eyes, our hearts on him. How did Jesus live? He gave his life and did not seek his own advantage.
III. JESUS WELCOMES ALL WHO FOLLOW HIM. Mk.10:46-52
Jesus and his disciples were on the road, passing through Jericho, making their way to Jerusalem. Blind Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside. There was a great crowd gathered around. When Bartimaeus learned that it was Jesus who was passing by, he began to cry out in an urgent appeal for help. As is often the case, the crowd tried to discourage Bartimaeus from making such an effort to meet Jesus. “Be quiet.” But Bartimaeus only cried out louder. Why? Well, clearly he had heard what Jesus can do for desperate people.
Bartimaeus identified Jesus as the son of David. If you attend prayer meeting on Wednesdays, you know that we have often mentioned one of the most important passages in the Old Testament. It is 2Sam.7. In 2Samuel 7, God makes a covenant with David that one of his descendants would reign forever on Israel’s throne. Bartimaeus associated Jesus with the promise of 2Sam.7:11-14. In other words Bartimaeus considered Jesus to be the coming Messiah.
Jesus called to Bartimaeus and Bartimaeus came to Jesus. He didn’t say, “Jesus I want you to do for me whatever I ask of you.” Instead, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” James Edwards writes, “Desperation is the doorway to faith. Bartimaeus wanted to see. “Let me recover my sight.” Jesus responded by saying, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” Literally, “Your faith has saved you.” Did Bartimaeus go on his way? No. He recovered his sight and followed Jesus on the way, on Jesus’ way.
Why would anyone want to follow Jesus knowing that there is a cross to bear in this world? Only because that person has come to see that Jesus is the only means by which one can be liberated from sin and death, and enter into a brand new life to live, the life of Jesus himself.
In v.32 Jesus and his disciples are on the road to Jerusalem. The disciples shrink back in fear. They are struggling in their faith. They do not see. Bartimaeus gave himself fully into the hands of Jesus. He entrusted his whole life to Jesus. He had no desire to go his own way. He desired to go with Jesus. His eyes were riveted on his Savior. There is no one else to go to for life other than Jesus. And Jesus welcomed him.
So how does this engage our lives practically? Well, we are talking about a foundational principle of discipleship. Followers of Jesus are consumed with Jesus. Disciples rivet their eyes on Jesus. We attend to the person of Jesus by reading about him in the gospels, by opening our hearts and minds to Jesus in conversational prayer through the Holy Spirit, by taking steps to obey his commands, and by regularly coming to His Table to meet with Him. If you are not a follower of Christ you are like our friend Bartimaeus. He was blind. But Jesus is here today, and if you want to see, if you desire to have his new eternal life, he will welcome you. Cry out to him and ask him to forgive and cleanse you of your sin and to give you his life. He will do it. Samuel Crossman, a minister in the Church of England who died in 1683 wrote the hymn, My Song is Love Unknown. The first two stanzas go like this: 1) “My song is love unknown, my Savior's love to me, love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be. O who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh and die? 2) He came from his blest throne salvation to bestow, but men made strange, and none the longed-for Christ would know. But O my friend, my friend indeed, who at my need, his life did spend.” Jesus gave his life for us. He welcomes all who will bow before him in faith. Amen