Mark 10:35-45 Servant Leadership And The Great Exchange.
Immediately upon his second prediction of his approaching death and resurrection, the disciples also disputed among themselves as to who would be the greatest among them. The horror of his death and the wonder of his resurrection three days later, seems to have completely escaped them. In this quest of theirs, James and John lend some insight to the matter of prayer. Still referring to Jesus as ‘Teacher’, they ask him to do for them whatever they ask (v. 35). Jesus does not immediately say ‘yes’ to them, as so many expect. It mattered as to what they were asking him to do (v. 36). They wanted the privilege of being the two to sit immediately at his sides (v. 37). In Matthew 20:20 it is their mother who makes the request, which they here seem to have clearly bought into.
Hearkening back to the prediction he just gave, he asks them if they were able to drink the cup that he would drink, or to be baptized with the baptism he was baptized with (v. 38). Here we also have a clue to the significance of Jesus being baptized – it being referred to in the past. His baptism was for the work he had just predicted for the third time. They claimed to be able to suffer a similar end, to which Jesus confirms that they would (v. 39). However, to sit at his right or left was something that had already been prepared. Some prayer does not get answered because it might be contrary to God’s sovereign predestinating will (v. 40). At this point the other ten, having heard this conversation, “began to be greatly displeased with James and John” (v. 41).
Jesus was putting forward to the twelve a much different model of leadership than that which was then exercised by the Gentiles, which was one where they lorded it over their subjects (v. 42). Jesus model was that of a servant, someone who was a slave to all (vv. 43-44). “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (v. 45). A ransom is what was paid for those who were held as slaves. Jesus came to take the place of those held as slaves to sin, becoming as a slave for this great exchange. However, he would not be a ransom for all, but only for many. His is a limited atonement, not limited in power, but limited again by the sovereign will of the Father, to as many as the Father had given to him (Cf. Jn. 10:25-30).