1. When you think of the word “leader” what images or names come to your mind? (President; boss; commander; Mayor; head of civic organizations; etc.)
2. When you think of the word “servant” what images or names come to your mind? (Helper; custodian; someone lower in terms of importance; housekeeper; etc.)
We almost always think of a leader as being out front, a person of prestige, and importance.
3. How do you think you would respond if you went for an executive job interview and you were handed a broom as part of the interview?
4. What would your attitude reveal about your understanding of leadership?
5. Have you ever been asked to do something that you thought was “beneath” you—even though you said nothing?
Today in Mark 10 we’ll see Jesus again in the role of teaching Messiah. In this chapter Jesus teaches about the permanence of marriage; the blessing of children and childlike trust; the barrier to the kingdom for the rich young ruler; possessions and material wealth; His third prediction of His death and resurrection; suffering and service and finally the healing of a blind man.
These incidents may appear to be somewhat disconnected. Yet, each was not only part of Jesus’ ongoing ministry but also served as an object lesson for the disciples. They needed to grasp Jesus’ example of One who did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for all who believe in Him.
It appears that His disciples, like many today, were struggling to understand what discipleship was all about and the true cost of discipleship.
The Request! Read Mark 10:35-38a
1. In your words, what was their request? (Next to Jesus, they wanted the top positions in His kingdom when it was established.)
2. How did James and John go about making their request? (In modern day terminology—“would you do us a favor?” They wanted a commitment from Jesus before they asked the real question.)
How do you picture the scene? Did they pull Jesus aside? Try not to be heard? Make sure they were overheard? Had they been thinking about it because Jesus’ tone had changed since they headed for Jerusalem? Maybe He was going to establish His kingdom in the very near future and, if so, we want to ask before anyone else thinks about it.
In Matthew’s account, the mother of James and John approached Jesus with them to make the request, while Luke didn’t identify who made the request. James and John, along with Peter, were members of what has been called “the inner circle” and may have assumed they had a higher position. They began their request by acknowledging Jesus as their Teacher (not Lord) but appeared to have forgotten His recent prediction concerning His death and resurrection. They were bold in approaching Jesus and desired a guarantee before they made the request.
3. How would you describe what motivated James and John to make the request?
4. What does the request reveal to us about their understanding of leadership?
5. What did the request reveal about their assumption about Jesus’ kingdom?
6. How is that same understanding expressed today?
It’s unclear how long James and John thought about their response to Jesus’ question in verse 38, but their stories show us they would sacrifice much more than they had intended, at least at this point in following Jesus!
7. What would you say to your younger self about something you previously misunderstood about following Jesus? (Even with Jesus right there, or teaching us clearly today through the Bible, we can let our own ideas muddle what Jesus teaches!)
Life has a way of humbling us and showing us God’s truth! The cup Jesus was about to drink included dying for our sins, while the baptism is a reference to their completely identifying with Jesus and being willing to face suffering for His sake!
8. What costs might be associated with following Jesus today?
9. What does the confidence expressed by James and John say about them? (Not unlike Peter the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, they were confident they would follow Jesus!)
10. In whom do they trust more, in themselves or in Jesus?
The Reaction! Read Mark 10:39b-41
The text doesn’t say how the other disciples discovered the request, but our actions seldom stay completely secret.
1. How would you describe the reaction of the other 10 disciples? (Indignant: “Feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment.” Perhaps they felt those positions should be theirs.)
2. How do you think you would have responded? (As believers, we need to constantly examine our motives for service. Do we follow Jesus because we want something from Him? Do we serve out of ambition hoping He will reward us with special privilege or compensation? Do we serve sacrificially with the goal of obtaining merit in His eyes? The only appropriate motive for serving Jesus is our love for Him.)
3. How did Jesus remain focused on the Father’s plan for Him? (Constant communication through prayer! Numerous times in the Gospels we find Jesus alone praying at all times during the day! If He needed constant communication with the Father, how much more do I need it?)
The Ransom! Read Mark 10:42-45
Notice how Jesus didn’t rebuke anyone but used this situation as a teachable moment for all of the disciples!
1. What are some qualities of a good leader that you most appreciate? (Leads by example. Unquestionable integrity. Puts the organization above self. Treats others as he would want to be treated. Shows respect to everyone. Willing to do whatever needs to be done, no matter how menial the task.)
2. Jesus challenges us to characterize our lives by serving well. What are some every day examples of serving well? (Changing a diaper. Mowing the lawn for a sick neighbor. Preparing meals. Grocery shopping. Serving at the Soup Kitchen; Community Food Pantry; Choir; orchestra; deacon; teacher—all ages; SS leader; visit shut-ins; prayer room; etc.)
Mark 9:33-35 tells us the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest. Jesus tells them that “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Evidently they weren’t paying close attention!
Summarize and Challenge!
1. Name some words that describe Jesus? (I found over 150 names and titles for Jesus and all are important. But as an example for us to follow in this life “Suffering Servant” gives us perhaps the best example for us to follow.)
2. How might being a humble servant to all of those around us help lead someone to Jesus?
3. What tips would you give for actually being selfless?
4. What temptations pull the attention back to self?
We point to Jesus when we selflessly serve others. But some people unwittingly serve to get attention.
5. What does counting the cost of discipleship look like in your life right now?
6. Where have you fallen short?
7. What steps can you take to make it right?
8. Where is perhaps the hardest place to be a servant?
Thank you, Father for Jesus’ teaching on how to relate to others. May we seek opportunities to serve others and let our lives more effectively point to Christ.