Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem
First Prediction of Death and Resurrection (8:31).
The Kingdom is Near (1:15; 9:1)
Final Events in Galilee (8:31–9:50).
At Judean Borders (10:1-31).
Third Prediction of Death and Resurrection (10:33-34).
Beware Herod & Pharisees (8:15; 10:33-34)
Third Prediction (10:32-34).
Beware of Herod & the Pharisees.
Recall, they were the ones plotting to kill Jesus (3:6).
Jesus warned His disciples about their leaven (8:15).
Their leaven, according to Matthew and Luke was their teachings and hypocrisy (Matt. 16:12; Luke 12:1).
This parallels Jesus’ third prediction of His death.
Up to Jerusalem.
It was at this point that Jesus had His eyes set to Jerusalem.
Imagine being in His shoes. You know what’s about to happen. You look up the road, knowing this is the last time you’ll be on this road, knowing the pain and agony you will soon face. You now face this daunting uphill climb, every step bringing you closer to the cross.
His disciples are amazed and afraid. Jesus has been telling them this whole time what’s going to happen, yet they are still fearful.
Jesus sensed this, and took the Twelve aside to speak with them further.
Other manuscripts have a slight word change suggesting that others who followed them were the ones who were afraid, but then He only speaks to the Twelve on what’s to come.
The language here suggests that these things would shortly come to pass (“things that would happen to Him”).
Anyhow, I am not sure how this would help to allay any of their fears.
Again Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man, and again He says that He is to be betrayed.
This is that same word that also means, “to deliver up,” so the concept of betrayal as we understand it may not have been understood by the Twelve at this time.
The chief priests and the scribes were the ones to whom He would be delivered, and who sat in such places of authority? The Pharisees.
He reveals here that He was to be condemned to death, so He would end up having some kind of trial—but the outcome would be bad.
He would be delivered to the Gentiles. Of course, these were non-Jews, and based on what we know of the time and place, those Gentiles were likely the Romans—which, of course, they were.
The sect in league with the Romans was… the Herodians. So be careful of the leaven of Herod and the Pharisees (8:15).
Jesus also adds on that He would be mocked, scourged, and spat upon. Then He would be killed, but that wouldn’t be the end of the story. Then He would rise again the third day.
If you were one of these disciples, would this have calmed your fears? What might you have been afraid of? Perhaps this talk was scaring you, or maybe you didn’t really believe it. Maybe you did, but you weren’t sure how this would apply to you. After all, if Jesus is taken, beaten, mocked, and killed, what happens to you? There is no promise given of your quick resurrection.
Of course we’ll see in the next section that they still didn’t really understand what Jesus was talking about anyway, not in the slightest.
The question (10:35-37).
The disciples still do not get it.
Recall what happened when they were arguing with each other on the road on who would be greatest. What did Jesus say? What did He do?
He told them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (9:35).
Then He presented before them a child saying that even those as lowly as children ought to be received (9:37).
The disciples obviously didn’t get it because not too long after that, they rebuked those who brought children to see Jesus, and Jesus rebuked His disciples for attempting to turn them away (10:13-16).
In fact, what did He say? “For of such is the kingdom of God” (10:14).
In other words, the kingdom of God is like children.
Then, after a discussion on riches making it impossible to enter into heaven without God’s help, He repeats the idea again that “many who are first will be last, and the last first” (10:31).
The disciples do not make the connection, therefore two of them, the sons of Zebedee, James and John, ask a question of Jesus about having high positions of authority in His kingdom.
Matthew records that James and John’s mother was involved in this discussion as well.
If you’ve ever been a teacher, especially in today’s society, you will get students with helicopter parents—the type that are super involved in their kids’ lives to the point that they do everything for them, even trying to convince the teacher to change a grade when the student didn’t earn it or to not be so hard on him/her. Yes, this even happens in college.
There’s nothing wrong with being involved in your kid’s life, in fact, I strongly encourage it. But they must be able to do things on their own because you will not always be there to fix it or do it for them.
I get the impression that James and John’s mother was kinda like this. She is a believer, to her credit, and wants what’s best for her children, but neither she nor her sons really know what that is.
“Do whatever we ask,” James and John say. Jesus wisely does not agree to that, but wants to hear the request first. It is a stark contrast to the request blind Bartimaeus makes in the next section.
Jesus asks them the same question, “What do you want me to do for you?” (10:36, 51). But the responses are quite different.
All Bartimaeus wants is his eyesight; James and John want the highest positions of authority in Jesus’ kingdom.
It’s a remarkable request since already they, along with Peter, had been shown to be the inner inner circle of Jesus’ followers (5:37; 9:2). Why would they think they wouldn’t receive such great positions?
Again, maybe they did, but their mother just wanted to be sure.
Ignorant questions (10:38).
It is evident that these two men (and their mother) have no idea what they are asking.
It is clear they have an erroneous notion of what His kingdom was going to be like, assuming it to be like an earthly kingdom.
In fact, as they approached Jerusalem, maybe they thought this was His march to seize power, casting out their Roman occupiers.
We know they still didn’t understand what His death/resurrection predictions meant, so of course they wouldn’t understand the nature of His kingdom.
Even right before His Ascension, they still would have no clue (Acts 1:6).
Jesus asks them a question using a metaphor, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
In Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, He would refer to what was about to happen as a cup. He would pray it would pass from Him (14:36).
When studying how the word “baptism” is used in the NT, we find that it describes 7 different kinds of baptism. This is one, a metaphorical baptism. This is an indication of the suffering He was going to experience on the cross, that it would engulf Him. Certainly, a crucifixion could be described like this, not to mention the scourging and beating that accompanied it.
Given all that we know up to this point, do you think James and John understood what Jesus meant here?
They might have recognized these as metaphors, but for what exactly? It seems clear they were making a claim that, when tested, they would falter and fail.
You see, that’s the kind of men Jesus chose to be His disciples. Men like you or me. Men who would falter and fail. Men who want greatness, but who scatter the moment things get rough.
It was the Holy Spirit who would give them help and comfort, who would embolden them to preach the gospel, putting their lives on the line for Christ and the gospel’s sake.
And if they could do it, maybe we can, too.
Jesus’ prediction (10:39-40).
Jesus tells them that they will indeed suffer a similar fate, even though they do not know what they are committing to yet.
While James was not crucified on a cross like Jesus was, he was one of the first Christian martyrs, and definitely the first of the Twelve to have been violently killed (Acts 12:1-2).
If even one of Jesus’ inner inner circle could be killed like this, what hope is there for any of us?
At the end of John’s gospel, there is an indication of how Peter would die and how John might not die by martyrdom (John 21:18-23).
While John died a natural death, he did suffer many hardships, including an exile on the island of Patmos, as a “brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9).
Jesus then goes on to say that such positions of authority are not His to give. So even with all the persecution they would face, there was no guarantee in terms of what reward they might have.
There was, however, some indication that we see in Matthew’s account of an earlier event. In the aftermath of the encounter with the rich young ruler, we read that Jesus said that those who left all would gain so much (10:29-31), but in Matthew’s account, Jesus also says, “When the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).
So, while they had no promise as to what position they would hold in relation to each other, they would still hold great positions of authority.
Displeased disciples (10:41).
As you might imagine, the rest of the disciples were “greatly displeased” at what had just happened.
How might you feel under the same circumstances? Would be upset or apathetic? Would you be loving or resentful?
Why do you suppose they were upset? There are a few possibilities that I see.
It might be because James and John were trying to undermine the rest of them, trying to cozy up to the Boss for better treatment.
Maybe they didn’t feel like they deserved it, particularly over Peter who was with them just as much.
Maybe they wanted such positions of greatness for themselves or they thought the judgeships they were promised was sufficient.
Or maybe the rest were beginning to understand what Jesus was talking about, and they were upset at James and John’s attempts due to their lack of understanding.
In any event, we don’t know for certain, but it did bother them to the point where Jesus thought it was something about which He needed to address them all.