Summary: Mankind has a tendency for pride and self-promotion. Pride results from our fallen state, revealing itself early in life. It has no conscience, seeking only self-satisfaction. Jesus reveals the remedy for pride.
The Pitfalls of Pride
Mark 10: 35-45
Man by his very nature has a tendency toward pride and self-promotion. The attributes associated with pride are revealed at a very early age. Children don’t have to be taught to be selfish; this characteristic is within their nature. Left unchecked our pride and selfish desires continue to manifest themselves as we mature, often in unhealthy ways. Many of the problems within the world today, and the majority of conflicts from the past, resulted from pride and the desire to possess power, prominence, and prestige.
While those who follow Christ have the benefit of the Spirit to aid in the struggle against such fleshly ambitions, even believers struggle with pride and self-promotion. The greatest battle we have is the continual struggle to suppress the flesh. Pride takes on many forms, and can be revealed in many ways, but it often presents unwanted consequences.
Our text today reveals an encounter between Jesus and His disciples. These men have now walked with the Lord for some three years. During that time He had continually modeled humility and service to others, but even these men struggled with pride and the desire to obtain a place of prominence. Jesus will address the issue of pride and reveal what is expected of those who are committed to serving Him. Surely we all can relate to this passage in some way or another.
As we examine the aspirations revealed in the text, I want to consider: The Pitfalls of Pride.
I. A Selfish Ambition (35-40) – First we discover the selfish ambitions of James and John. It seems apparent these men have pondered and even discussed their ambitions among themselves, and feel the time is right to approach Jesus. Consider:
A. Their Desire (35-37) – And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.  And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?  They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. As Jesus and the disciples journeyed toward Jerusalem, with Jesus knowing His crucifixion was quickly approaching, James and John came to the Lord with a particular request. They boldly requested to be seated beside the Lord when He assumed His throne in glory. These men knew that the one on the right would be regarded as the second in rank, and the one on the left would be considered third in rank within the kingdom. They were seeking a place of prominence and power within the coming kingdom.
Clearly this was a bold request. What would motivate these men to ask such a thing? What caused them to believe they deserved such a place of prominence? Matthew reveals that their mother had also requested this position for her sons, Matthew 20:20-21. She was actually Mary’s sister, and the aunt of Jesus. James and John would have been His first cousins. Likely they assumed their family relationship with Jesus had earned them a position above the other disciples. Scripture reveals these men, along with Peter, seemed to enjoy a closer relationship with Jesus.
This request is especially troubling due to the timing involved. Jesus had just spoken of His coming betrayal, arrest, suffering, and death. These men seem unmoved by the horror that awaited Jesus, and it appears they desired to secure their position before it was too late. (Have we not encountered such selfishness too? We have heard of those who want to divide up a deceased loved one’s possessions before the funeral arrangements have even been made. Pride has no conscience, seeking only its own promotion and well-being.)
B. The Discussion (38-39a) – But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? [39a] And they said unto him, We can. Jesus asked a serious question in response to their request. Were these men able to drink from the same cup He would and endure the same baptism? He was not referring to the suffering of the cross, knowing He alone could endure that for them; but Jesus wanted to consider the gravity of their request. Were they willing to endure the shame and reproach of the cross following the resurrection? Would they be willing to suffer and even die for their faith? While they had yet to comprehend all they would eventually face, they readily agreed they could endure such difficulty. No doubt this was their pride speaking.
C. The Disclosure (39b-40) – And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:  But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. Jesus affirmed they would have to drink a cup of suffering and persecution for their faith. In fact, each of the disciples, with the exception of John, would be martyred for their faith. An attempt to kill John would be carried out without success, and he would be banished to the Isle of Patmos. These men would suffer faithfully for Christ, but the positions James and John desired would not be rewarded due to sinful pride and selfish ambition. Those seats would be filled according to the sovereign will of God.