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Ambitious Request of James and John—The Reply (Mr 10:35-45).
35. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying—Matthew (Mt 20:20) says their "mother came to Him with her sons, worshipping Him and desiring," &c. (Compare Mt 27:56, with Mr 15:40). Salome was her name (Mr 16:1). We cannot be sure with which of the parties the movement originated; but as our Lord, even in Matthew's account, addresses Himself to James and John, taking no account of the mother, it is likely the mother was merely set on by them. The thought was doubtless suggested to her sons by the recent promise to the Twelve of "thrones to sit on, when the Son of man should sit on the throne of His glory" (Mt 19:28); but after the reproof so lately given them (Mr 9:33, &c.) they get their mother to speak for them.
Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire—thus cautiously approaching the subject.
36. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?—Though well aware what was in their mind and their mother's, our Lord will have the unseemly petition uttered before all.
37. Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory—that is, Assign to us the two places of highest honor in the coming kingdom. The semblance of a plea for so presumptuous a request might possibly have been drawn from the fact that one of the two usually leaned on the breast of Jesus, or sat next Him at meals, while the other was one of the favored three.
38. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask—How gentle the reply to such a request, preferred at such a time, after the sad announcement just made!
can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?—To "drink of a cup" is in Scripture a figure for getting one's fill either of good (Ps 16:5; 23:5; 116:13; Jer 16:7) or of ill (Ps 75:8; Joh 18:11; Re 14:10). Here it is the cup of suffering.
and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?—(Compare for the language, Ps 42:7). The object of this question seems to have been to try how far those two men were capable of the dignity to which they aspired and this on the principle that he who is able to suffer most for His sake will be the nearest to Him in His kingdom.
39. And they said unto him, We can—Here we see them owning their mother's petition for them as their own; and doubtless they were perfectly sincere in professing their willingness to follow their Master to any suffering He might have to endure. As for James, he was the first of the apostles who was honored, and showed himself able to be baptized with his Master's baptism of blood (Ac 12:1, 2); while John, after going through all the persecutions to which the infant Church was exposed from the Jews, and sharing in the struggles and sufferings occasioned by the first triumphs of the Gospel among the Gentiles, lived to be the victim, after all the rest had got to glory, of a bitter persecution in the evening of his days, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. Yes, they were dear believers and blessed men, in spite of this unworthy ambition, and their Lord knew it; and perhaps the foresight of what they would have to pass through, and the courageous testimony He would yet receive from them, was the cause of that gentleness which we cannot but wonder at in His reproof.
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—No doubt this prediction, when their sufferings at length came upon them, cheered them with the assurance, not that they would sit on His right and left hand—for of that thought they would be heartily ashamed—but that "if they suffered with Him, they should be also glorified together."
40. But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand in not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared—"of My Father" (Mt 20:23). The supplement which our translators have inserted is approved by some good interpreters, and the proper sense of the word rendered "but" is certainly in favor of it. But besides that it makes the statement too elliptical—leaving too many words to be supplied—it seems to make our Lord repudiate the right to assign to each of His people his place in the kingdom of glory; a thing which He nowhere else does, but rather the contrary. It is true that He says their place is "prepared for them by His Father." But that is true of their admission to heaven at all; and yet from His great white throne Jesus will Himself adjudicate the kingdom, and authoritatively invite into it those on His right hand, calling them the "blessed of His Father"; so little inconsistency is there between the eternal choice of them by His Father, and that public adjudication of them, not only to heaven in general, but each to his own position in it, which all Scripture assigns to Christ. The true rendering, then, of this clause, we take it, is this: "But to sit on My right hand and on My left hand is not Mine to give, save to them for whom it is prepared." When therefore He says, "It is not Mine to give," the meaning is, "I cannot give it as a favor to whomsoever I please, or on a principle of favoritism; it belongs exclusively to those for whom it is prepared," &c. And if this be His meaning, it will be seen how far our Lord is from disclaiming the right to assign to each his proper place in His Kingdom; that on the contrary, He expressly asserts it, merely announcing that the principle of distribution is quite different from what these petitioners supposed. Our Lord, it will be observed, does not deny the petition of James and John, or say they shall not occupy the place in His kingdom which they now improperly sought:—for aught we know, that may be their true place. All we are sure of is, that their asking it was displeasing to Him "to whom all judgment is committed," and so was not fitted to gain their object, but just the reverse. (See what is taught in Lu 14:8-11). One at least of these brethren, as Alford strikingly remarks, saw on the right and on the left hand of their Lord, as He hung upon the tree, the crucified thieves; and bitter indeed must have been the remembrance of this ambitious prayer at that moment.
41. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John—or "were moved with indignation," as the same word is rendered in Mt 20:24. The expression "began to be," which is of frequent occurrence in the Gospels, means that more passed than is expressed, and that we have but the result. And can we blame the ten for the indignation which they felt? Yet there was probably a spice of the old spirit of rivalry in it, which in spite of our Lord's recent lengthened, diversified, and most solemn warnings against it, had not ceased to stir in their breasts.
42. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule—are recognized or acknowledged as rulers.
over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them: and their great ones exercise authority upon them—as superiors exercising an acknowledged authority over inferiors.
43. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister—a subordinate servant.
44. And whosoever of you will be the chiefest—or "first."
shall be—that is, "let him be," or "shall be he who is prepared to be."
servant of all—one in the lowest condition of service.
45. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many—"instead of many," that is, "In the kingdom about to be set up, this principle shall have no place. All My servants shall there be equal; and the only greatness known to it shall be the greatness of humility and devotedness to the service of others. He that goes down the deepest in these services of self-denying humility shall rise the highest and hold the chiefest place in that kingdom; even as the Son of man, whose abasement and self-sacrifice for others, transcending all, gives Him of right a place above all!" As "the Word in the beginning with God," He was ministered unto; and as the risen Redeemer in our nature He now is ministered unto, "angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him" (1Pe 3:22); but not for this came He hither. The Served of all came to be the Servant of all; and His last act was the grandest Service ever beheld by the universe of God—"He Gave His Life a Ransom for Many!", &c. "Many" is here to be taken, not in contrast with few or with all, but in opposition to one—the one Son of man for the many sinners.
Mr 10:46-52. Blind Bartimaeus Healed. ( = Mt 20:29-34; Lu 18:35-43).
See on Lu 18:35-43.
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