Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller


Power Play

Mark 10:32-52

There's a saying in business that I've heard a lot. "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!" It portrays the sentiment that you should step up and over everyone - meekly fall in line with the "leaders" - blindly following their every command - or just go away.

We value expertise and bravado - make people think you know what you're doing or least intimidate them so much that they'll be afraid to challenge you.

This is a lesson this man learned: Rick, fresh out of accounting school, went to a interview for a good paying job. The company boss asked various questions about him and his education, but then asked him, "What is three times seven?"

"22," Rick replied. After he left, he double-checked it on his calculator (he *knew* he should have taken it to the interview!) and realized he wouldn't get the job.

About two weeks later, he got a letter that said he was hired for the job! He was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but was still very curious. The next day, he went in and asked why he got the job, even though he got such a simple question wrong.

The boss shrugged and said, "Well, you were the closest."

So what really matters in business, in life, in the Lord? We are surrounded by a model that has been in place for millennia. Those with money and position are the boss and we are just the followers or those that get stepped on as people climb their way to the top over us.

Jesus Christ came to earth to reveal the nature of the REAL boss - the Lord God Almighty. He is pretty intimidating, so you'd think He would have a personality to match - but He doesn't. The boss of bosses does not follow the world's leadership model - and Jesus is going to try to hone that in to His disciples as we look at the last half of Mark chapter 10.

32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise."

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."

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

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

This is pretty amazing based on what has just happened. We know from the other gospels that these boy's mom - Mrs. Zebedee, was also involved in this thing - and granted, mothers always want the best for their sons - but you think sometimes these guys just don't listen.

Jesus has just gotten through telling them that "many who are first will be last" and yet here they are wanting power and position. The truth is that many times we hear what we want to hear. Our brains are wired in fact to interpret much of what we see and take in - to make conclusions based on past experience. Our minds will in fact fill in many blanks in order to make sense out of the environment around us. That's one of the reasons that motion pictures work - your brain actually stories an image a little longer than it is really there - its called "persistence of vision." Show individual pictures at 24 frames per second and your brain says: "this is moving, fluid - not a series of still pictures."

Well often we hear the Lord tell us something in His Word or through a teaching - and we just hear what we expect to hear. James and John heard Jesus say "many who are first shall be last" and apparently thought that left room at the front of the line for them!

The point is to really focus on what the Lord is saying - even if that challenges the way you have always interpreted things.

Jesus helps the disciples understand what they are really asking for - not a positin of power but a life of suffering.

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?"

39 "We can," they answered.

Don't you love how quickly they answer that? They apparently thought that the cup was the cup of a king ad the baptism was being anointed as king. Maybe they were so busy talking and scheming that they didn't hear Jesus say "I'm going to be killed." Make sure you aren't so busy creating God's agenda for yourself that you miss where He wants to take you.

Jesus gives them what they want, even though that's not what they were really asking for.

Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 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."

The disciples did indeed suffer and most of them were executed for their beliefs in Jesus - and I think it is interesting that Jesus doesn't say "no," He just says that those positions are already spoken for.

So who does get to sit with Jesus like that?

Well, turn to Revelation chapter 4.

Rev 4:4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.

24 thrones for twenty four elders. Who might make up this group? Well, there are a lot of opinions - that they represent the 24 ranks of priests found in the Old Testament - or that they are angelic beings - or that they are the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles - thus representing believers both before and after Christ.

It is possible that James and John will sit with Jesus - but notice how the Lord gives the decision to the Father - submitting His own will to the Father.

But I think the most important point here is that their focus was off. They shouldn't have been worrying about the size of their offices and whether they have an office on the corner but should have been concerned with following Jesus as He led them to Jerusalem.

Being a disciple of Christ is not a career ladder to power and prestige - it is more often than not a seminar in suffering. So why sign up at all? Because that suffering allows the Lord to make changes to our character - and one day take us to be with Him - perfect, just like He is - but part of that perfection means becoming a servant, not a master.

So James and John's little power play doesn't go over too well with the other boys:

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

So Jesus is trying to go to Jerusalem - to face the most difficult trial of His life - and His two of His disciples are trying to secure their positions and the rest of them are now upset with the first two and I can just see the looks they are casting each other - kind of like on "The Apprentice" where everyone is trying to get everyone else tossed out so they can land the job with Donald Trump.

So Jesus needs to set the record straight about how leadership and power is derived and used in His kingdom. These are some of the most powerful words Jesus spoke on earth - especially to us, His disciples, about how to live in this world.

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. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 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."

To "lord over" means to force into subjugation - to control. To "exercise authority" means "to have full privilege." So I tell you what you can't do, and I also force you to do what I want you to do.

For many people, that sounds pretty good. But Jesus says: "not in My kingdom." Instead we are to be errand boys and bond-servants. That's what "servant" and "slave" mean here. We are to be the ones who try to figure out what someone else needs - then do it.

Jesus uses two different words for position in the kingdom of God - "great" and "first." "Great" is the Greek word megas from which we get something that is big being "mega-whatever." The word "first" is protos which means "in the forefront" or "chieftest." So if you want to make a big splash in the kingdom - or if you want to be in the lead - then you find ways to help others do well.

Jesus now puts His money where His mouth is as they approach Jericho:

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

People with disabilities in that culture were not cared for like they are today. So Bartimaeus basically sat by the road and probably held out something for people to put coins in. He can't see Jesus coming, but he undoubtedly hears people saying it - he doesn't know where He is so he just starts crying out.

Man, I like that - it's a picture of us. We are blind and helpless - and even if we can't see all the intricacies of the work of Messiah and understand pre-destination and election and propitiation - we hear about Jesus and just start flailing about, crying out to Him to help us.

Now he was probably making a pretty big fuss and it was embarrassing to the town's folk who were getting a visit from a famous person - so they tried to shut him up - but that didn't work either, he just kept at it. So watch Jesus' response:

49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."

So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

Probably someone helped him up and led him by the hand to the Lord.
Now watch this:

51 "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.

Now at this point the man could have said "you idiot - I'm blind, isn't it obvious what I need?" But Jesus takes nothing for granted. The man could have also said "I heard you make bread appear out of nowhere - make me rich so I won't have to beg anymore."

Jesus asks us what we want Him to do for us as well. What would your response be? "Lord make me rich and famous!" We too should ask Jesus to heal our blindness to the truth about ourselves and Him!

The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

So what do we get out of this half of the chapter?

I'm going to play a little game - called: "The World Says - The Word Says"

The World Says:
Be Pragmatic - situational ethics are okay if the situation works for you.

The Word says:
Be holy - 1 Tim 5:22 do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

The World Says:
Be nice to others, as long as it benefits you

The Word Says:
Eph 6:5-9 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

And the corollary: "it's okay to be mean as long as you get the work done"

9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

The World Says:
The more people you give orders to the more important you are

The Word Says:
Phil 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The World Says:
Never take the blame

The Word Says:
2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Matt 5:43-45 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

What's your focus?

When you are faced with a task or a situation what do you think about - what does this mean to me or what do I get out of it? Or do you think: what opportunities are there for me to help someone else do better, even if it means I don't get the credit?

What are your goals in life?

This is a legitimate question - if your goals are to make as much money and security for yourself by gaining positions of power and authority then I think the lessons of this chapter apply. To get far in God's kingdom you need to act like the King.

Who are your associates?

Most of the time we want to be seen with the "beautiful people" so that we get some of their glory rubbing off on us. Jesus was not afraid to associate with the lowly - those that didn't have it all together - and neither should we.

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