The Request Jesus Cannot Grant: Mark 10:35-45

Focus Passage: Mark 10:35-45 (GW)

35 James and John, sons of Zebedee, went to Jesus. They said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do us a favor.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them.

37 They said to him, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

38 Jesus said, “You don’t realize what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup that I’m going to drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive?”

39 “We can,” they told him.

Jesus told them, “You will drink the cup that I’m going to drink. You will be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive. 40 But I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. Those positions have already been prepared for certain people.”

41 When the other ten apostles heard about it, they were irritated with James and John. 42 Jesus called the apostles and said, “You know that the acknowledged rulers of nations have absolute power over people and their officials have absolute authority over people. 43 But that’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant. 44 Whoever wants to be most important among you will be a slave for everyone. 45 It’s the same way with the Son of Man. He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.”

Read Mark 10:35-45 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

As Jesus approached the last week before facing the cross, two of His disciples came to Him with a request. By this point, all the disciples likely were sensing Jesus’ ministry leading towards one single moment, and the only thing they could conclude based on their preconceived ideas is that He would launch the campaign against the Romans and make the nation of Israel independent again.

The request these two disciples make is selfish, but also understandable. They ask Jesus, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (v. 37)

However, Jesus’ response is interesting. First, He asks them a counter-question, which they respond to, and after this, Jesus responds to their initial request by saying: “I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. Those positions have already been prepared for certain people.” (v. 40)

When I read this event knowing that Jesus would be on a cross not to long afterwards, it is hard to not see the disconnect with what these disciples ask and what they think they are asking. These disciples think they are asking for the places of most honor in a typical king’s kingdom, but they don’t realize that Jesus’ kingdom is different, and that when He receives His glory, it will look entirely different.

Jesus breaks both sides of the bad news to these disciples by saying that He doesn’t have the authority to grant their request and that those positions have already been reserved for certain people.

This leads me to wonder who these “certain people” were.

The highest point in Jesus’ ministry where He has individuals on His left and His right happens not long after this event. During this high point, Jesus is hanging on the cross with two criminals, one on His right and one on His left. This means that the point when Jesus was glorified, He was among the worst people in society and among those that the world condemned.

I am sure that these two disciples would not have asked the question they did if they knew Jesus would be glorified on a cross. While these disciples each faced trials, persecution, and death because they dedicated their lives to Jesus, it was only after Jesus’ death on the cross that they truly began to understand what His true mission was.

For us living today, Jesus’ message to these disciples is as true for us as it was for them. Jesus warns His followers to not seek power, fame, or position over others, because they might not realize what they are truly asking for. Instead, Jesus tells each of His followers that they should focus on serving like He served, because when we ask God for help serving, He is more than willing to grant our request!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.