Ryan Bruce/ The Gathering Church: Gospel of Mark/ Naked Runner Series #17
Check Your Motives
In this lesson my son writes on selfish motives. The struggle of man’s wicked heart desiring to elevate himself even in his Christian walk. Selfishness and pride hide in many ways. Sometimes we put a mask over our arrogance with family, a job, or religion. Some even mask pride with “humility”!
Selfish Motives Mark 10:32-37, Matthew 20:20-21, 1 Corinthians 15:10, James 4:3 We begin as Jesus speaks about his crucifixion for the third time to the disciples. “I will be condemned in a court, mocked, spit on, flogged and put to death…then I will come back to life”, said Jesus. The disciples were AMAZED and FEARFUL. .
Let’s recall what Jesus just finished talking about to these disciples: He just blew all their minds with a heavy look at the law. He warned them of the dangers of sin and punishment of sin. He covered the value of following him and how to receive eternal life. He tells them that nothing is impossible with God and then confirms that they will suffer for his sake. He also told them that he would be killed and then raised from the dead three days later.
They were amazed by the promises and wisdom Jesus had for them. However, they were terrified of what was to come: death, suffering, and persecutions. So what is the response of John and James that follows all of this? Well, they wanted Jesus to do for them whatever they asked. They wanted Jesus to allow them to sit at his right and left hand in glory!
“Sons of Thunder” James and John were nick named by Jesus as “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). The brothers were full of zeal! We read of these guys in Luke 9:53-56, when the disciples were dealing with some prejudiced crowds and they called out, “Jesus, do want us to call down thunder from heaven to destroy them?” Jesus promptly rebuked them! These guys were zealous, and at times over zealous. In this particular case, they were zealous with wrong motives. Their zeal was for their own pride and selfishness.
Good Ol’ Mom! We find the same story in Matthew 20:20-21 and we see that James’ and John’s mother was also with them making this request on their behalf.
Culture of the day We must understand the culture and time to understand the request that was being made. In ancient Jewish culture the most distinguished person would sit at the right hand and the second most important on the direct left at the head of the table. The mother of James and John, as well as the two brothers, didn’t want to be ordinary people but distinguished persons in heaven; they desired special attention, authority, and notoriety. They desired to be elevated among all the others.
Pride hides itself in many ways. We have all been guilty of it at one point or another, but how do we deal with it? Here we see the obvious selfish desire of the two brothers, and the prideful zeal that led them to approach Jesus with an attitude of entitlement. “We want you to do anything we ask!” This attitude is far from the humility of “Lord if you are willing” that Jesus responds to in the gospels. James and John had forgotten they were chosen by Jesus through grace, they were not deserving of him. None of us are (1 Corinthians 15:10). Sometimes, after a long walk with the Lord we lose sight of what he has done and focus on “our” work and success. This attitude will quickly turn into desire for elevation and status as it did for James and John. Example: After a job promotion we are above the lowly work we once did before. We deserve children or parents who are the best and we settle for nothing less. We deserve top-notch things and respect because we are so awesome! The reality is that same pride, if not kept in check, will make its way into our spiritual life as well.
What are your prayer life motives? Do you consider your request, by asking first “Lord if you are willing?” How often do you ask God to search your heart? Do you humbly look at your situation with the eyes of eternal purpose? We read in James 4:3 about selfish motives in our prayer life and the results of them.
Christ’s Reaction Mark 10:38-40, 2 Timothy 3:12
“Can you drink the cup I drink?” said Jesus. These guys couldn’t even grasp the “cup” that Jesus spoke of. Jesus then prophesied about how James would be the first to lose his life for the sake of the gospel at the hand of Herod (Acts 12:1-2), and John would be delivered into the hands of his enemies. They would later understand what that cup meant.
2 Timothy 3:12 Humility should be the trait of a follower of Christ. Humility comes with trials and pride is humbled by persecution. Our desire should be to lift up Christ and others and to decrease self. The disciples, however, became more selfish and proud as Jesus’ time drew near. It is interesting how they worried more for themselves than for Jesus. We can be like this too. So often when a loved one passes it is we who are angry, thinking of ourselves more than the one who is ill or gone home.
Pride Mark 10:41-45, Proverbs 13:10, Acts 2:44-47
Pride causes division and bitterness. Mark 10:41 – It caused division and anger among the disciples. It was a sin for John and James to make such a proud request, however the disciples were angered for their own pride. “Who do they think they are!” attitude. Jesus addressed them all on humility and their desires for glory. We must realize that we may not be the zealous proud type but we can still be proudly quiet or spiteful just the same. Mark 10:42-45 We, as Christ illustrates, should be motivated by grace, humility, and service. We should look for opportunities to serve, not be served. “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” It is humility that brings growth and unity – Acts 2: 44-47 When the church serves one another in humility, the Lord enables growth.
Jesus heals the humble believer Mark 10: 46-52
In contrast to the disciples the blind man Bartimaeus cried out “Jesus! Have mercy on me!” Let us approach Jesus with humility, realizing that any good thing comes by the grace of God. Let us seek his mercy so that we too can serve, heal, teach, and love the way he did. Lord, make us a unified church of humble servants called to your purpose. Amen