The Gospel for this Sunday is the request of James and John to sit at Jesus’ right and left (Mark 10:35-45). This text comes right after the third and final Passion prediction. And it shows how different Jesus’ kingdom is to ours, how different his definition of glory is.
Those two words, ‘kingdom’ and ‘glory’, are the words the disciples use to describe what they think should be ahead for Jesus. Matthew records the word ‘kingdom’, and Mark, the word ‘glory’. That is not surprising since, when considering the four living creatures and their connections to the four accounts, Matthew is connected to a man—someone who can have a kingdom—and Mark is connection to a lion—an animal that has a high amount of respect when it comes to fighting. It is also not surprising that, in Matthew, the mother of James and John come with the question, and, in Mark, these ‘sons of thunder (Mark 3:17)’ are described as coming on their own.
What I really liked when I compared Matthew and Mark’s rendering is that Mark uses a word that Matthew is quite fond of. It’s found many times in Matthew but only two in Mark. It is the word for ‘to think’ or ‘to suppose’. In Mark 6 the disciples thought that Jesus was a ghost, a phantasm. And, in Mark 10:42, there are those who are thinking or supposing to rule.
The ESV translates this phrase as, ‘…those who are considered rulers….’ And I think that is an okay translation. A king or a queen may THINK that he or she is in power, but it is really the Lord who rules.
I would like to ‘switch gears’ at this time to give you another example of this. I like this example because, at first glance, it is one of the most boring chapters in the entire bible. Genesis 14 mentions a bunch of kings, and then it talks about how Abram (eventually his name is Abraham) saves Lot and his stuff because he was captured by some of those kings.
You might want to read the chapter at this point, but here are some of my observations about the text. It seems like the kings are going out by themselves to fight. Of course their armies are doing most of the work. With this perspective, the kings are seen as powerful people. And, in contrast to these kings (the title of which has not been mentioned in the previous chapters), Abraham is called a ‘Hebrew’ (and this is for the very first time).
The word ‘Hebrew’ is very close to the verb, ‘to cross over’. Abraham follows the promise that God made to him. He is different from the rest. He is different from the other kings.
The real king is God, and this is clearer in what is said about ‘God Most High’ at the end of the account. He is called the ‘Possessor’ of heaven and earth two separate times (Genesis 14:19, 22). This is the same word that Eve uses to name her son Cain when she says, ‘I have gotten a man….’ And this is also the word used when someone buys something. This refers to something that is REALLY yours.
God already possesses whatever we buy. God already has whatever we think we have. God rules over everybody who thinks that they rule. And Jesus is headed in a certain direction, with certain people on his right and his left, to rule over sin, death, and the devil—for all people, for all time.