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An Ill-Timed Request (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
February 10, 2023 3:00 am

An Ill-Timed Request (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 10, 2023 3:00 am

We may be tempted to shake our heads in disbelief at the rivalry among Jesus’ disciples. But find out why we should actually be encouraged by their imperfection. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg concludes the series ‘They Just Don’t Get It. Do We?’



When we hear about the rivalry that existed among Jesus' disciples, we may be tempted to shake our heads in disbelief. But today on Truth for Life, we'll find out why we should actually be encouraged by their imperfection.

Alistair Begg is concluding the message he's titled An Ill-Timed Request. We're studying Mark chapter 10, looking at verses 32 through 45. Certainly we discover again, as before, that they're very quick to focus on glory rather than on shame. They are very interested in honor rather than rejection, and they are fundamentally consumed with the possibility of great exaltation and a crown, but they just have no place at all for a cross. I think they would have been very interested in going into a book which gave them seven steps to living at their full potential, a book which said to them, you can have your best life now. Because it would appear that that was really what they were interested in.

It's not unusual that people today are interested in these same things. They're interested in a kind of gospel that offers all the upside and none of the downside. But such a gospel is neither true to what Jesus is proclaiming, as we're about to see, nor is it true to human experience. No, Jesus says, let me tell you what it means for me to go, and let me tell you what it means for you to follow. And then look at these fellows.

It's quite incredible, isn't it? And then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, from the fishing business, they came to him and said, Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask. However he was going to accomplish it, they recognized that somehow or another, he was going to introduce the Messianic age. By the time the resurrection has taken place and before Pentecost, you will remember in Acts chapter 1, it is these same disciples who come to Jesus and ask him the question, Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? When does the good stuff start, Jesus?

When do we get all the good business? You're going to reign on David's throne forever and forever. We understand that part. And that's why, Jesus, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.

Well, what do you want me to do for you? he asked. Well, they said, we'd like to get our reservation in for our seats.

It's never too soon to reserve good seats. Jesus is talking about suffering. They're talking about status. They had enjoyed privileges to this point, hadn't they? The particular privilege of the transfiguration. Peter, James, and John taken by Jesus into a unique and wonderful opportunity. Perhaps that it made them think that they were deserving of such experiences. When God draws us close and introduces us to the wonders of his love, it's not because we're deserving of it. It's an indication of his amazing grace. But maybe somehow or another, they said, you know, there's a reason why he took us up on the mountain of transfiguration. We are the key guys.

So why don't we just go ahead and ask him and see if we can't make sure our seats are reserved. One on the right, one on the left. That would be nice, Jesus, if you could do that for us.

Unbelievably ambitious, unbelievably insensitive. And what about their buddy, Peter? Were there three of them on the mountain of transfiguration? What about Peter, James? Yeah, what about Peter? There's only two seats. There's only one right hand and one left hand. We asked first.

Unbelievable selfishness. They just don't get it, do we? Now, his question in verse 38 anticipates the answer no, obviously, doesn't it? You don't know what you're asking, Jesus said.

In other words, you just don't get it, do you? Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I'm baptized with? The answer is obviously no, because Jesus is going to drink the cup of God's wrath. God's wrath poured out against the sins of men and women. Jesus is going to be baptized or, if you like, overwhelmed by the reality of God's judgment. Can you go through that? Can you bear God's judgment?

Can you face this baptism? Now, the obvious answer is no. But look at how they reply in verse 39.

If their ambition is selfish, their presumption is clueless. Yes, we can. We can, they replied. Now, how we understand that pathos in Jesus' voice here in verse 39 I think is important. I imagine that with a measure of sadness, Jesus responds. He says to them, well, actually, you know, you will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I'm baptized with. Well, is he changing his tune? Is he saying in verse 38 you can't and you won't, and then in verse 39 he says you can and you will?

No. The distinction should be clear to us. What Jesus is going to accomplish is a unique mission.

We'll see that in just a moment as we conclude. That's why context is always crucial to our understanding of a passage. What Jesus is going to accomplish is unique. But what he identifies as he looks into the faces of these dear disciples is that they too are in walking in obedience to him, in following along with him. They too will face suffering. They too will face death.

But, he says, you need to know that your experience down that road is not the condition for securing the best seats. In other words, there is no notion of penance here, is there? That if you do a really good job of enduring all of this, then you get a very special place for you, because you're participating in, you're sharing in, you're offering it up. Some of you understand that terminology from your background, when you were told by your priests or your nuns to offer it up. What they actually meant by that was something very significant, which runs absolutely counter to what Jesus is saying here. There is nothing that we have to offer up that contributes one iota to the sufferings of Christ or to the acceptance of God's sacrifice of his Son.

No. When we endure what we endure, under the providence of God, whatever that may be, we do not endure it in order that it might secure for us a seat in the dress circle, because the seats in the dress circle, Jesus says, are not mine to give out. They have been prepared for those for whom they've been prepared.

You can just imagine the disciples, how that buzzed them when they thought about it. Oh, wow! And then it began again, I'm sure to say to one another, Who do you think you're in? Do you think you've got a chance?

What do you think? Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them who love him, for those who love him. Leave that to God. Leave God to order all your ways. You don't have to worry about that.

Don't you worry about that? When you take your place in heaven, if you're in the seven thousandth row away from the action, you'll sit down and say, this is a fabulous seat. And if you happen to be in the third front row, you'll sit down and say, this is a great seat. And if you're in row 780 and you look down at people who are in front of you, unlike at a sporting event or a rock concert, you will not go, oh, I wish I was up there! Because you will be perfectly content with the place He's given you. And if you are in a different place, you will not, as in a rock concert, turn around and go, man, I'm glad I'm not back there! Because you will be absolutely contented with what He provides. Your eye hasn't seen, your ear hasn't heard, it hasn't entered into your mind the things that God has prepared for them that love Him. Listen, fellas, you shouldn't be asking about the seats. I am not in charge of the seating arrangements at my banquet.

The Father has taken care of that. But know this, the key to the seats is not your suffering, a suffering that you will experience. So the selfish ambition of the two is matched by their clueless presumption, and the clueless presumption and the selfish ambition is matched in verse 41 by the shared indignation of the ten. When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. I suppose it is just remotely possible that the reason they were concerned was because they thought that it did a great disservice to Jesus for the two of them to think in that way, and they, the ten, were so far removed from that that they were just indignant, I can't believe you said that, James and John.

That's one possibility. The more likely possibility is that they were ticked with James and John because James and John had got a jumpstart on the seating arrangements. And when they found out that James and John had applied for the left and right-hand seats, then they were absolutely furious.

What do you think you're doing? Because after all, on the previous occasion, what had they been arguing about as they came up the road? Who's the greatest?

Who's the greatest? Hadn't they learned anything? Jesus had said to them back in chapter 9, remember, He says, if anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all. If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and the servant of all.

Jesus, excuse me, thanks for sharing that stuff about Jerusalem, but James and John, we've just been talking. I mean, no big deal, but we've just been wondering if you would do for us whatever we ask. We like a Christianity where you serve us. We like a Christian experience where you exist to do what we want. You seem to be talking about a Christianity where we exist to do what you desire.

We're not liking that approach just as much. So, would you just do for us whatever we ask? Jesus, make me healthy, wealthy, and wise. What will it profit a man? To gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

Better to pluck out your eye and go into heaven with one eye than go to hell with two. Who said that? Jesus.

They just don't get it, do we? What a group, the future leadership of the church. Here it is, marked by rivalry and selfish ambition. The core, Jesus' plan for the future.

It is, on the one hand, amazing, and it is at the same time encouraging. At least it ought to be. Because if Jesus had taken this perfect group of individuals, we would have looked at them and said, We're so far from that, it's not funny. He's never going to make use of somebody like me. After all, I'm a doubter. After all, I'm a betrayer. After all, I'm a chicken.

After all, people ask me questions, and I say, Oh no, I don't know Jesus. No, I don't go there. No, I don't. No! No, I'm not interested in me. No. I'm getting first. Yes, you are. Yes, I am.

Yes, we are. Finally, he huddles them up, and he gives another word of explanation. Verse 42, and we're done. He says, Let me just contrast what you know of the Gentile rulers and what I want to be exemplified in those who are my followers.

The overreaching of the Gentile rulers is set in stark contrast against the characteristics of greatness in his kingdom. And it may well be that Jesus is simply referencing the coinage of the land. The head of Tiberius or Augustus the emperor appeared on the coins, and along with that, on the coins, the inscription, He who deserves adoration. He who deserves adoration.

And every time that people took the coinage out of their purses, they looked at it and they said, You know, this is the epitome of having made it. If you become the emperor, you deserve adoration. And of course, Jesus understood that there was only one who deserved adoration. And therefore, those who were going to be his followers needed their human valuation to be turned on its head.

Look at that little sentence that begins verse 43 in the NIV. Four words, Not so with you. Not so with you. Some say, What in the world does that mean? Well, let me tell you.

Not so with you. Instead, you want to be great? Serve.

You want to be first? Be a slave. The word he actually uses is doulos. He introduces another word, an even more graphic, even more pointed word, be a slave. In other words, he reverses all these human values, a reversal that is embodied in himself, who, although he had equality with God, did not think equality with God something to be grasped. Remember in Philippians 2? But made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of man. He became obedient unto death, even death on the cross.

That is what is unfolding here. And as this very pattern unfolds, the disciples are making such a royal hash of it. And as he contrasts the characteristics of the kingdom with the rulers of the Gentiles, he then serves up the ace in verse 45. He says, 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. In other words, he's making reference to himself. He does it in the third person. In the first person, it would have been, For even I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.

You see, this answers the question that is in the minds of any thoughtful person. Why did Jesus have to die? Why did Jesus have to die? I remember at the very beginning of Mark's Gospel, when Jesus had that wonderful event at the house of Levi. Levi was a tax collector, and Jesus had called him, and he became a follower. And they were having dinner at Levi's house, and there were a lot of disreputables at the dinner who were eating with Jesus and the disciples. And the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, and they asked his disciples the obvious question, Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

I mean, if this fellow is a messiah, if this fellow is a rabbi, if this fellow is a teacher of the law, what in the world is going on here? And on hearing this, Jesus said to them, It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Now all these days later, he says, think about it, even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. In other words, this points us forward to our service on Good Friday, when we will gather and ponder the fact that at the cross of the Lord Jesus, heaven's love and heaven's justice meet. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

See, the Bible is essentially a book written for sinners. And if you've been coming to Parkside and you're saying, You know, I don't get the Bible. I just don't get it. I mean, I don't understand the suffering thing. I don't understand this dying Jesus thing. I mean, there's a lot of ways that God could have showed his love.

I mean, why this dying? But as soon as you know yourself to be a sinner, then suddenly the notion of someone dying in your place becomes profoundly good news. But if you think you're a very righteous person, at least righteous enough or good enough, to make entry to the kingdom and secure your seat on the strength of how well you're doing, then you will find it just as incomprehensible as did these disciples. Jesus, why are you saying these things?

Why are you doing this? It makes no sense. Until I realize that bearing shame and scoffing rude in my place, condemned he stood, and sealed my pardon with his blood, my Savior? Jesus wasn't calling his disciples to give their lives as a ransom. That was his unique mission. He's the only Savior because he's the only one who's qualified to save. But he does call us to service, and he does call us to sacrifice. He does call us to selflessness.

He does call us to humility of heart. It's tremendously challenging, isn't it? You think it's challenging to listen to?

You should hear what it sounds like from up here. Because I know my own proud, stony heart. What's hard about this to understand?

Nothing. And as my good friend Singular Ferguson puts it, the simple words of Jesus are always the most difficult. But they just don't get it. Do we? It is certainly easier for us to relate to imperfect men than it would be to relate to some kind of perfect apostles. I find it incredibly encouraging to see the patience and compassion that Jesus has with his followers. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Alistair will be back in just a moment to close today's program with prayer. Today's message concludes a series titled, They Just Don't Get It, Do We? And if you have benefited from these challenging sermons, if you'd like to hear them again or share them with a friend, you can download any or all of the messages in this study for free.

Re-listen as often as you want whenever it's convenient or share them with a friend. You'll find the messages on our website at Now if you're listening through the radio or through our mobile app today, did you know you can ask your Amazon Alexa or your Google Home to play Truth for Life? Both of these voice-activated devices can play the daily program. Just say, Alexa, play Truth for Life, or, Hey Google, listen to Truth for Life, and the daily program will begin.

For a few more commands, you can search Amazon Alexa or Google Home at Another way to hear Alistair teach live and in person is by joining him aboard the Deeper Faith Cruise. This is a 2023 Mediterranean cruise. Alistair is the guest speaker. It's a 10-day cruise that will visit some of the most beautiful ports in the Mediterranean. There are stops in Italy, Greece, Malta, Croatia, Slovenia. The cruise sets sail August 26th, goes through September 4th.

Cabins are filling up fast, so make plans today. Visit for more information. Along with Alistair's teaching, we choose books to recommend to you, and we choose them with great care. You may have heard me mention our current title, which is His Grace is Enough. This is a children's book. It teaches about forgiveness and grace in a way that makes it easy for young children to understand. His Grace is Enough is suitable for children ages three to seven.

It's a book that opens the door for conversations about how we can't fix ourselves. We need a savior to do that for us. You can request your copy of His Grace is Enough today when you sign up to become a Truth Partner or when you give a one-time donation at slash donate.

Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Father, thank you for the Bible. Thank you for the way that it searches us and knows us and penetrates our hearts, confronts us with our own selfishness and preoccupations with position and status. We confess our sins to you. We confess that we haven't known you as we ought, nor have we loved you and served you as we should. We look forward to the day when finally all of our love and our service and our knowing will be on account of being welcomed into your presence, when we will enjoy all that you have prepared for us, not on the strength of how well we've done, but on the basis of the accomplishment of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. So turn us from ourselves to Jesus afresh today, we pray, and we ask it in His name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you enjoy your weekend and are able to worship with your local church family. Do you sometimes wish you knew the future? Well, on Monday, we'll have a special message where Alistair explains that what you can know now is actually better than knowing what lies ahead. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-10 05:27:11 / 2023-02-10 05:35:54 / 9

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