Mark 10:35-45


This passage is paralleled at Matthew 20:20-28. In Matthew the mother approaches Jesus with the request. The differences between the two accounts are very minor. There are no conflicts or disagreements. Form criticism plays real havoc with this section. They speak of primary and secondary narratives, the theology of the early church and early Christology. John as author of the fourth Gospel is subtly denied. This opinion is found in the  Interpreter's Bible. 

Lessons in humility, after Caesarea Philippi, are intertwined with the three passion narratives. See Mark 9:33-37; 10:13-16 and this one at 10:35-45. Furthermore, read John 13:4-17 and Luke 22:24-30. Sinful pride was constantly evident in the disciples. Furthermore, the disciples were blind as to the true meaning of Jesus' suffering and death and the nature of His Kingdom. See Acts 1:6. The disciples were a strange mixture of faith and selfish pride. But Jesus always gently leads them back to the truth. Compare John 15:2-3. Jesus constantly purifies the pure.

Mark 10:35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." 

They practically ask Jesus to sign a blank check. Likely they had misunderstood Matthew 19:28.

Mark 10:36  "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.

Jesus does not sign a blank check.

Mark 10:37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." 

The disciples are sincere and forthright but much mistaken in their understanding. "In your glory" is equivalent to "in your Kingdom." 

Mark 10:38  "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" 

By "you don't know what you're asking" Jesus is signalling them to stop pursuing this course. He is gentle. "Drink" is present active, denoting His active obedience, and "baptized" is present passive, denoting His passive obedience. He is implying that the way to glory is the way of suffering.

Mark 10:39  "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with," 

Their single-word (in Greek) answer is astounding. Look at 14:50. Their self-confidence did not proceed from faith. Jesus' answer to them is a prophecy fulfilled at Acts 12:2 and Revelation 1:9. To drink the cup and to be baptized are obvious metaphors for suffering. But this is not an allusion to the Sacraments. Contrary to what Bengel says.

Bengel: They who take the Sacraments, are partakers of the baptism and the cup of Christ.

This text does not say that.

Mark 10:40  "but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared." 

Compare these translations: NIV: "These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared." Beck: "Something I can give only to those for whom it is prepared." 

Ylvisaker: This may be done only in accordance with the will of the Father, to whom He now willingly submits. In His lowly estate he may do nothing of Himself (John 5:19).
Stoeckhardt: Jesus does not say that the Father has a power which the Son does not have. He means that He does not act as does an earthly king. He does not assign places to His servants in the Kingdom on the basis of caprice or pleasure but the Father, who has chosen them from eternity by grace to everlasting life, will give them their portion with the Son in the coming glory and rule.
Lenski: Jesus is now carrying out all the Father's counsel of grace and thus says regarding these glory-seats that they are not his own to allot by gift at this late date. Their very preparation the Father has attended to long ago, also their allotment to those who shall occupy them . . . It is possible that this knowledge was withheld from Jesus during His state of humiliation.

In 37 James and John said: "Give to us." In 40 Jesus says: "It is not mine to give." They ask on the basis of presumptuous pride. His answer is the very antithesis of this -- humility.

Mark 10:41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.

Hendriksen: The spiritual attitude of the ten was not any better than that of the two. How easy it is to condemn in others what we excuse in ourselves.
Lenski: The ten show themselves no better than the two. Many feel wronged by the success of others, when similar success on their part appears quite without wrong to them.

Mark 10:42 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them." 

"Called them together" is used more frequently in Mark than Matthew or Luke. Jesus nips the argument in the bud. Note the utter contrast between Himself and the twelve. Note the parallelism for the sake of emphasis. The point is their selfish, dominant authority. It is a fact of life in the kingdom of power and is such because we live in a world of sin. Jesus is not passing judgment on them here.

Mark 10:43  "Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant," 

This is not a wish. It's a fact.  "Among you" denotes the kingdom of grace. Note that this phrase is repeated in this verse and once again in 44. In 42 selfish, dominant authority is limited to a few. What Jesus speaks of in 43 and 44 is open to all. It is by grace, not by arbitrary choice or human endeavor, sinful human endeavor. In both 43 and 44 we have not a wish, but God's established way.

Mark 10:44  "and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." 

These verses are a masterpiece of parallelism. Note the crescendo in the contrasting terms.

Stoeckhardt: The domain of the church is nothing but service.

Mark 10:45  "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." 

"You see, even . . . " The "but" means "namely" or "in particular." Here is the true meaning of service. It is selfless, voluntary and universal. Though men served Him, never did He ask to be served.

Hendriksen lists these verses as parallel thoughts: 1 Peter 1:18-19; Exodus 30:12; Leviticus 1:4; 16:15,16,20-22; Numbers 3:40-51; Psalm 49:7-8; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; Galatians 3:13; 4:5; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 5:6,12; 13:8; 14:3-4.

The redeemed are called many compared with the one Son of man. Look at Romans 5:19.

Ylvisaker: The term 'many' is used with special reference to the great number in whose behalf the sacrifice should be made.

The Reformed, of course, deny the universal atonement at this point. They say that Christ died only for the elect out of all nations, many, not all.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B Mark-John, Sundays after Pentecost, Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 67-68

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