Friday, May 27, 2022
Text Size

Latest Online Messages

Listen online to the latest messages from Pastor Bob and others at Shoreline Community Church...

Welcome To

Thanks for stopping by! If this is your first visit, get to know by reading the latest posts or perusing the seminar that gave us the name. You can also search for training and resources by topic.

Why Eagleflight?

Learn how eagles reflect our spiritual journey...
With Eagle's Wings    |    Fly, Eagle, Fly

The Road to Greatness

A person God uses knows the true road to greatness in God's kingdom.

So often in our Christian lives we are trying to drink something other than what the Lord intends for us. We're trying to find and drink of the cup of greatness, achievement, and success when Jesus desires to lead us to the cup of humble service. We believe the ultimate is to find great happiness and success; however, if we follow our Lord's way and drink of His cup, both greatness and humility will be satisfied. A wonderful example is in Mark 10:35ff.

In Mark 10:32-34, Jesus had just informed His disciples that a cross awaited Him in Jerusalem. But the disciples, Mark goes on to reveal, saw something different awaiting them. They were looking for the cup of success and greatness.

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."

What a request! Sounds a little pushy, doesn't it? We will talk about the request in a moment, but first, let's focus on a few of the details.

Who made the request?

There is a difference between Matthew's and Mark's version of this event. Matthew tells us that it was the James and John's mother who made the request, with the suggestion that they had talked her into it. Mark pays very little attention, on the other hand, to the mother's question and focuses on the two disciples, showing us that the request was really their idea.

Jesus knew the request had come from James and John, so He answered them.

Look at the big picture for a moment.

What in general was being asked for?

Many have misconstrued this story and believed these disciples were wrong for making this request, but that is not true. There is nothing wrong with their request; they were asking for something Jesus had given them every reason to ask for, just a few days previous.

Matthew records Jesus' promise that when He came into His glory, they would sit on 12 thrones and judge the 12 tribes of Israel. Matt. 19:28—"Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'"


Do you remember Jesus making this promise to the disciples? It really puts this request in a different light, doesn't it? Their promised thrones were what was on their minds as they walked up to Jerusalem. Let's look beyond their words and see what they were requesting.


What specifically were they asking for?

In essence, they were asking for three specific things:

A place of honor/praise

Many even today see this as the ultimate achievement—a place of honor. James and John wanted a throne, and all that it represented—recognition, honor, and exaltation—reserved for them. In other words, these two disciples wanted what was promised to them.

But the request was even more specific.

A position of proximity to Jesus

"Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." They may have had in mind some related reward for being near Jesus, too. Whatever their understanding of the request, once the disciples knew that 12 thrones were waiting for them, you can understand why they would discuss where these thrones would be placed in relationship to Jesus. Up to this point, the disciples as a group had twice fallen into a discussion as to which of them would be the greatest.

This, then, was really a continuation of their contest to be the greatest among their peers. James and John, talking this over with their mother, decided there was no good reason why they could not belong to the inner circle, one on the right hand and one on the left. They wanted to be near Jesus.


If we overlook any probable attitude problem or potential greed they might have had, the pure request was not wrong. It is not wrong to want to be near Jesus. They knew they were going to reign with Him, so they thought it perfectly in order to ask to be given positions nearest Him.

A promise of power

How do we know this is behind their request? Power, of course, is what a throne represents! In some sense, they had already experienced the gift of power from Jesus. They had been sent out and given power to raise the dead, heal the sick, and cast out demons—Matt. 10:7-8, etc. There was nothing wrong with the expectation of power accompanying their thrones.

But something was missing from their three requests.

What didn't the disciples understand about their request?

When our Lord replied, He did not rebuke them or say, "What's the matter with you guys? How can you be so proud"? He didn't rebuff this ambition to be near Him, to be honored, and to have power. He did say, in effect, that they were going about it the wrong way. Notice His answer in vv. 38-40:

"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?"
"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, 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."

What does all this mean? Listen carefully, because what Jesus is indicating to the disciples in these verses will have a tremendous impact on us!

Let me pause here in the story and point out something to you that I think is extremely important about the gospel writings, the Old Testament stories, and other narrative portions in the Scripture.

When we study a narrative, it's easy to wonder what it might have to do with us. We might think, "This is someone else's story; why should I care about it?" I want to remind you that the genius of Scripture is that its story form makes it applicable to every culture. Once the facts of a story are understood, we have truth encapsulated in it. In other words, the truth is wrapped up in the characters and their response to their circumstances, the Scripture, and others.

So the secret is to let the story soak into your soul. Let it permeate you. Walk into it and try to understand it first in the light of the original characters of the narrative and the story's original hearers. Then begin to think and meditate on the story. As you do, look for the principles and the germ of truth at the center.

Let's do that as we study this incident with James and John.

Jesus in essence is saying in this passage: "The trouble with you guys is not that you are asking for the wrong thing, but you are asking for it with no understanding of what is involved." In other words:

  • They were uninformed.
  • They simply didn't know what they were asking for.

Jesus indicated that they were ignorant of the price of their thrones of praise, proximity and power. In a startling comment, He implied that He Himself would pay a heavy cost in His future as well. The difference was, He already knew the price and was willing to pay it. What was it that Jesus and the disciples would have to do?


v. 38b—"Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" Here He employed two beautiful figures to help us understand what He was facing—a cup and a baptism.

The Cup

What does the cup mean? I am sure most of us have quoted the 23rd Psalm: "My cup overflows." What do we mean by that? It is clear that the cup symbolizes the realm of our experience, the circumstances into which we are placed—perhaps producing a joyful, happy reaction from us. Just as many of us have cups and mugs in our kitchen cupboard which represent us and ourexperiences, so the cup the Lord speaks of here symbolizes the realm of our experience, and the circumstances into which we are placed—both good and bad, happy and sad.

In the Old Testament, for example, the figure of a cup is sometimes used for things which are not so joyful. Jeremiah spoke of Israel as having to drink the cup of the Lord's fury, which was handed to them and they had to drink. The cup, then, is a figure of what life hands us, in which we have no choice. It may produce either a good or a bad reaction, but it is specifically chosen for us, and we must drink of it.

In Mark 10:38, then, our Lord was of course speaking of the cross. He saw it as a cup given to Him by His Father. Later in the Garden of Gethsemane, He would pray: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." He was speaking of the whole spectrum of the cross events, involving:

  • the suffering
  • the anguish
  • the pain
  • the rejection
  • the mocking
  • the scourging
  • and the spitting

All these experiences were the Father's choice for Him and thus were handed to Him to drink. Not everything in the cup was from Him, but it was monitored and allowed by the wisdom and design of the Lord.

In addition to the cup, Jesus used the figure of baptism, too.

The Baptism

What does He mean by this? Again, this is a very common figure in the Scriptures, found in both the Old and the New Testaments. "Baptize" means to "dip," to "place into"—to dip into water or some other liquid, to immerse them in it. The Israelites as they left Egypt, for example, were "baptized unto Moses in the Red Sea." That is, they passed through the waters of the Red Sea in the way that was opened up to them, surrounded by the waters, baptized by them in that sense. They were overwhelmed by the water, which made them one with Moses. They were identified with him by following him into the sea.

This, then, is a figure of some events which were given to the Lord and which would totally affect Him. He was not speaking of water baptism, but of events that would overwhelm Him. He would be immersed in them so completely that it would touch and affect everything about Him. The cross would seek Him out at every level of His life; it would immerse and overwhelm Him. That is a baptism, and that is what was waiting for Him and us as well.

Remember how beautifully descriptive some of the Psalms are of this same idea: "Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me"—Psalm 42:7. At the cross, Jesus would be completely saturated with this terrible event; it would sweep over Him like a wave or breaker at the sea and totally overwhelm Him!

So getting back to James and John, doesn't it look like Jesus is saying, "This is the price of glory, honor, thrones, and greatness. Are you able to pay it?" Look at the self-confidence James and John exuded, however. They sounded like overconfident fighters just before a fight! "Sure, Lord, whatever. Just bring it on. We can take it. We are able." Sadly, they didn't know their opponent or the cost involved.

Notice how Jesus replied. He didn't try to explain it all to them; rather, He took them at their word. He left it to later events and to the hand of the Father to unfold it to them. A paraphrase might be: "All right. If you want to drink of My cup and be baptized with My baptism, you shall."

As these disciples did not know what they were asking Jesus for, sometimes neither do we when we ask of God. God sometimes, however, grants our requests for success and greatness anyway. He leads without telling us there's a cup and a baptism ahead. I for one am glad He does it that way. I don't want to know everything that will happen to me. I might not move forward if I did!

Are you like me? We ask to be used of God, but we don't understand the preparation it will take.

  • We ask the Lord to give us godly children, but we don't realize the pressures, the teaching, the training, the counsel, the intercession and prayer involved, sometimes in the middle of the night.
  • We ask for financial success, but we don't know it starts with faithfulness with the few things we already have, and faithfulness in our giving, our tithing, our benevolence.
  • We ask for a mate and a good marriage, but we don't know the work of communication; the need for patience and acceptance; the implications of our vows, for better or for worse; the need to die to self and to love unconditionally; the prayer, the growth, the heights, or the depths of a lifetime relationship. We think the ceremony will do it for us!
  • Some will say they are content to be single, but a single person may not anticipate all the temptation, the misunderstanding from friends who get married; the times of loneliness; the discrimination at banks and other social institutions; how essential it is to stay in community, and how difficult it will be to include the necessary intrusion from others into their lives as roommates and friends.

We don't know the cost of our desires—even of the things God has promised us. I'm not talking about the cost of salvation; that was paid for us, and we receive it by grace alone. What I'm talking about is the cost of sanctification and of doing God's will. I believe if the disciples had known what it meant to make their request, they would never have asked for it. I'm sure of it!

Dr. A.B. Bruce once wrote, "If crosses would leave us alone, we would leave them alone, too." But they don't. They are handed to us. They are cups given to us. These disciples could not escape the cup or the baptism, for they, too, would have to suffer like Jesus—to bear the shame, anguish, suffering, and death.

Let's think about the cup and the baptism that we are drinking or will drink of in our lifetimes.

Are we willing to drink of the cup the Lord may give to us, and be immersed in His preparation for our service and reign?

If we are, a throne of greatness awaits us and unimaginable joy and accomplishment will be ours. On the other side of the cup and the baptism will be resurrection and ascension, and seating together with Jesus far above all rule and power and every name that is named—Eph. 2:4-7. We are promised a place with Him!

4] But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6] And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7] in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

[Note Eph. 1:21 to see where Jesus is and where we will be too!]

The Lord promises us this in spiritual realms even now, in a measure; but someday we are assured we will rule and reign with Him in heavenly places too. Second Timothy 2:12 says, ". . . if we endure, we will also reign with him." (See also Rev. 20:6.)

Yes, our reign, our crown awaits us. "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10).

We must understand, the cup of preparation awaits us.

It has been uniquely prepared with only us in mind. Poured into the cup is the goodness of God, the Word, His Spirit, His power, His comfort, His wisdom, and experiences that are unique to us.

Poured into the cup is also, of course, evil from the enemy of our soul. We must understand, as Jesus understood at the cross, anything that comes from Satan is monitored by our Lord, and even though Satan may design his schemes for evil, God will transform them into good (remember Joseph and Job, and that all will be done safely in His loving hands).

So there is a cup of greatness, of success, of fulfillment, of unspeakable joy. Will you drink it? Knowing that the cup the Lord offers you will contain a mixture of joy and sadness, evil and goodness; will you trust the Lord and drink of the cup that has been prepared for you?