35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.
36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?
37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
39 And they said unto him, We can. 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:
40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. Mk. 10:35-41
I am back, back where I belong. I am not talking about this blog, of course; I am referring to the fellowship of the saints, where I can be together with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I have missed all of you, but I am sure God’s grace has been upon each one of us, regardless of the outside circumstances that might have come upon us during the last week.
Today, I will begin with a startling confession. I do not expect this blog to become a popular blog by any standards. This is because I write from the viewpoint that the modern church has somehow left “the King’s Highway”, which is the revelation of the cross of Jesus in our hearts. The ‘unpopularity’ of this blog will arise from the fact that many in the church will not be willing to forsake the comfortable place the populist gospels of prosperity, etc have put them and embrace a gospel that clearly puts them in the danger zone.
But we cannot preach anything less than what Jesus Himself taught. And here clearly He is telling his disciples John and James to expect danger. Jesus was pointing them to the cross!
But even before we consider Jesus’ words above, it is clear even in the days we are living in that true Christianity is something that is costly. All over the world and particularly in the Middle East, Christians are paying dearly for their faith.
From Jesus’ words above we can see the attitude that we need to have as Christians. It is an attitude of suffering. Jesus talks about a cup – a bitter cup – and a baptism. We need to be in the Spirit to understand these terms. Jesus was not talking about being baptized in the river, for John had already baptized Him. He was talking about something much deeper, something that would touch the very core of His life.
On the other hand, you can see the disciples’ attitude. It was a worldly attitude. They were thinking of worldly positions. In fact in Matthew’s account it says they came with their mother – which is a traditional canvassing technique that has never been known to fail. And that is the attitude of the church today. It is headline news that today’s church loves the world more than it does God. The church has been taught to want the good life. We don’t want to suffer in any way. If any trouble comes it is considered a demon and we have been taught to rebuke it “in Jesus’ Name”!
Actually, the charismatic gospel is too simplistic – it knows everything about God! “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!” And the church now has dredged up every “promise” from the Bible which it deems suitable to make it stay safe.
Under such a ‘gospel’ we cannot humble ourselves to accept what God has for us. It is indeed a gospel that teaches us to “stand up for our rights”! But if you read the Bible well, you will see exactly what God has for us: suffering and death. There is only danger for the born-again believer. That is the only way to bring out the life of Christ in us. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die” (1 Cor. 15:35-36).
Notice the word “die” there. When the carnal man in us dies, then we carry Christ’s life in us.
The result of desiring the world is that we will not carry the life of Christ in us. The gospel will be robbed of its power – the power to change a man – and we will carry all the fruits of a carnal life in us instead.
It is not easy to carry the nature or character of Christ in us. For that to happen there is a price to pay. We will have to carry a spirit of suffering, just like Jesus did. That is what Jesus was trying to get across to James and John (although it would appear that they were not getting a word of what He said! The thought of sitting at the high table can affect one’s sense of reasoning in an incredible way!!)
The more we listen to what Christ is saying, though – the more we know Christ – the more we realize and acknowledge that much needs to change in us. We discover the pride in us, the lack of faith, the hardheartedness, and many other undesirable things.
But we need to partake of the cup and that baptism in order to “sit with Jesus” in heavenly places. That “to sit” means we put off the old man of sin.
[Below: The Maasai in Tanzania have comfortably embraced other trades apart from pastoralism. But they are not about to abandon their traditional dress code!]