Summary: The road which the Lord sets before us is not easy. It requires us to give up our selfish ambition, and to walk the path of service. Yet it is a route which leads to a crown of glory for ALL who follow Jesus.
THE SERVICE OF CHRIST
The disciples of Jesus were amazed that Jesus had ‘steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51). They were beginning to have the clear apprehension that such a route would lead to their Master’s premature death, and that the promises of His kingdom would remain unfulfilled.
Their attitude would be summed up by Thomas as they drew nearer the danger: ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him’ (John 11:16).
However, Thomas and the other disciples were slow to recognise that the death and resurrection of Jesus necessarily precede the establishment of the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord did not come with a sword to conquer. He came with a message of peace. His was a mission of reconciliation between God and man. ‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ He would later tell Pilate (John 18:36).
There was nothing sudden or unexpected about the death of Jesus. He came into this world in order to die for His people. He knew exactly what He was doing. Time and again the Lord Jesus told His disciples of the necessity of His death and resurrection. No one was going to take His life from Him: He was going to lay it down willingly.
People everywhere, and in every generation, are offended at the teaching of the necessity of the Cross. People prefer self-help religions, imagining that they might obtain God’s favour through their own merit, rather than through the merits of another. They are sadly mistaken: ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The only way to obtain satisfaction with God is through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (John 3:16).
Jesus was a patient teacher. The Lord reminded His disciples that His journey to Jerusalem would precipitate events which would lead to His death and resurrection. This was why He came into the world. It was not outside His control.
Even in the midst of such solemn teaching, the disciples were still preoccupied with their sense of the grandeur of the kingdom of God. They could envisage Christ in all His glory, and yet remained deaf to the message of the cross.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were particularly concerned about what status they might have in the coming kingdom. They desired that they might be seated, the one on His right and the other on His left (Mark 10:37).
Had they not heard their Lord’s reproof of such self-seeking? Jesus said, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all’ (Mark 9:35).
Jesus reproved the brothers. They were asking something which even Jesus, the Son of God, was not at liberty to give. He challenged them to consider that they too must partake in His sufferings before they would enter into His glory (Mark 10:38-40).
There is nothing lacking in the sacrificial nature of Christ’s offering of Himself on our behalf. However, the afflictions of the Church on His behalf are not yet completed. I am sure that this is the basis of Saint Paul’s teaching in Colossians 1:24!
Jesus had earlier told a rich man (Mark 10:21) to ‘take up his cross.’ There is a cross to be carried by everyone who would be a Christian. Jesus taught, ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me’ (Luke 9:23).
The other ten disciples were indignant at James and John. It seemed as if their earlier argument about ‘who was the greatest?’ remained unresolved (Mark 9:33-35).
The truly great men of God are not those who intrude upon some high office in the Church or State, but those who humbly serve the needs of others.
The supreme example of service is that of Christ Himself. He came “not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for (in place of) many” (Mark 10:45). Here Jesus outlines the full extent of His own unique sacrifice in the context of an attitude of service to be followed. Our Lord later illustrated the type of humility which He wishes us to emulate when He washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:3-5)!
The Apostle Peter tells us that the suffering of Christ was an example for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21,23). However, whilst the death of Jesus furnishes us with the supreme example of humility, it is unique in its application (1 Peter 2:24).
In Philippians 2:3 we read, ‘Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.’ The Apostle Paul continues in Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”