Through the Bible in One Year

Day 61

Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said, “Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask you.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them.

They answered him, “Allow us to sit at your right and at your left in your glory.”

Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink or to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

“We are able,” they told him.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with. But to sit at my right or left is not mine to give; instead, it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten disciples heard this, they began to be indignant with James and John. Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. But it is not so among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you will be a slave to all. 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.”

Jesus in today’s passage is giving his disciples and us a lesson on what is often referred to as “servant leadership”.  Because you see James and John thought that by asking to sit  by Jesus’ side in prominent positions they would become “great”.  However, Jesus dispelled them of that notion by teaching that true greatness is not a matter of leadership, authority, ability or high personal achievement.  Rather, it is an attitude of heart that desires to serve God’s purposes and seeks to benefit others.  We, as followers of Christ, must be so committed to God that we pursue his plans and purposes on earth without desiring glory, position or material rewards.  We must remember that accomplishing God’s purposes, leading others into a personal relationship with Christ and pleasing him are the greatest rewards for those who are truly great in God’s eyes.  And true greatness is what we are going to spend the rest of our time together talking about.

True greatness is not a matter of outward position or recognition; rather it is a matter of inward humility in spirit and heart.  It is seen in how you express your love for Christ by submitting to him, by actively serving God and fellow humans and by willingly accepting a place as the least important in God’s kingdom.  With that being said we are going to look at four things that we need to understand about true greatness.

  1. We must understand that greatness is not proven by your position, office, leadership, power, influence, academic degrees, fame, ability, great accomplishments or success.  It is not so much what you do for God as who you are in spirit with relation to him.
  2. We must understand that true greatness requires that you become great in the right areas.  You need to learn to be great in faith, humility, Godly character, wisdom, self-control, patience and love—all of which are the fruit of the Spirit.  Such character traits reflect the greatness of Christ, who “loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (Hebrews 1:9).
  3. We must understand that true greatness is a matter of heartfelt love for and devotion to God.  It requires reserving your life for his purposes, however and wherever God choses to place you.  In God’s view, the greatest in his kingdom are those with the greatest love for him and faithfulness to his Word as revealed through the Bible.
  4. We must understand that remaining deeply devoted to Christ and free from evil will improve the results in God’s work, but only as you serve in the way God has planned.  This means faithfully making the most of the gifts and opportunities he has given us to serve him and others.

Jesus ends his teaching on true greatness and servant leadership with these words, “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.”  A ransom is a price paid to obtain freedom for others.  As a part of God’s plan to restore his relationship with people that had been broken by their sin, Jesus gave his own perfect life to pay the penalty for all mankind’s offenses against God.  Christ’s sacrifice secured the release of men and women from sin’s power and control.  And those who accept Christ’s sacrifice and entrust their lives to him are freed from guilt and condemnation, sin and death.  And to fully understand the example that Jesus was giving to everyone living on earth we need to understand seven truths that the Bible emphasizes about Christ’s death.

  1. It was sacrifice.  Jesus willingly offered his own perfect and sinless life.
  2. It was vicarious, which means experienced or endured by one person for the benefit of another.  In other words Jesus died not for his own sake, but for the sake of others.
  3. It was substitutionary.  In other words, Christ suffered death as the penalty for our sins, as our substitute.
  4. It was propitiatory, which means it made peace and resolved a problem.  In other word, Christ’s death for sinners satisfied God’s perfect justice, righteousness and moral order, which required that sin be punished and a penalty be paid for human offenses against him.  Christ’s sacrifice covered that penalty in full, removing God’s wrath from those who admit and turn from their sin, accept Christ’s forgiveness and entrust their lives to him.  Through Christ’s blood, God’s holiness was not compromised and he was able to reveal his grace and love for us.  God himself put this plan in place, not because he owed us, but because of his love and mercy toward us.
  5. It was expiatory, which means it supplied a right for our wrong against God.  In other words, Jesus’ perfect sacrifice not only paid in full the price for our sin, but it also erases and cancels the guilt of those who accept his forgiveness and follow him.  Christ makes it just as if his followers had never offended God.  By Christ’s death, the power of sin that separated God and people has been broken in the lives of those who give themselves completely to him.
  6. It was completely effective.  In other words, Christ’s atoning death has the power to restore people to a right relationship with God if they put their faith in him.
  7. It was victorious.  By dying on the cross, Christ fought against and was triumphant over the power of sin, of Satan and of his demonic forces that once held all of mankind captive.  Jesus’ death was the beginning of the victory over the spiritual enemies of both God and humanity.  Jesus’ death paid the ransom for our sins—to God and not to Satan.  As a result, Jesus liberates people from sin, death and Satan.  It is Christ’s victory that makes it possible for people to serve God.

All of the truths and results of Christ’s sacrifice that we have just talked about are available and potentially active for all of us.  But in reality they only take effect in the lives of those of us who, through faith, accept Jesus’ sacrifice and show their devotion by submitting to his purposes for their lives, just as Jesus submitted himself to God’s purpose for his life.  For you see that is the key to being truly great.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Leviticus 27:14-34 and Numbers 1, Mark 11:1-26, Psalm 46:1-11 and Proverbs 10:23

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