The Cycle of Assurance

The Cycle of Assurance

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5:11)

Chart Credit: Case, David A. and David W. Holdren. 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude: A Commentary for Bible Students. Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2006.

Compensated Beyond Comprehension

Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask? – Mark 10.35

These words were spoken to Jesus Christ by His apostles, James and John.  The words aptly express the sentiment of many nominal Christians today.  James and John, along with Peter, already enjoyed very close fellowship with Jesus.  The three men made up the inner circle chosen to be with Jesus during special times and landmark occasions during His earthly ministry.  Now, they come and and ask Jesus to commit to something without revealing what it is they desire.  Any parent knows how that feels!  We half expect them to say, “If you really love us, you’ll do this for us.”

It’s hard to see clear evidence of selfishness like this inside of us.  But it’s there.  Perhaps our conscience is quickened when we behave this way, but we still cajole and manipulate our desirable outcomes in life.  We want to make things the way we want them knowing all the while God will refuse us.  But still we pray, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask!”

Jesus’ response is surprising to us.  We expect Him to point out how selfish these guys are.  Instead, He asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (10.36) It really is quite masterful when you think about it.  Now these selfish men will actually have to verbalize their spiritual immaturity.  They blunder on by replying, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (10.37).  I imagine John cringing when think about this as an old man on the Island of Patmos.

The right hand was the most privileged position and the left second-best.  At least James and John left it to Jesus as to whom would receive each respective place of honor!  Jesus patiently explained that these two men didn’t know what they were asking.  The fact that they were asking for themselves indicates they were selfish, but the fact that they didn’t know where their request would lead indicates they were foolish.

Jesus patiently and compassionately used two metaphors to paint the bleak picture that He Himself faced ….that they too would face.

Drink the Cup – Active Participation in Suffering

You do not know what you ask.  Are you able to drink the cup that I drink.  – Mark 10.38a

The men will later respond that they are able.  Jesus then affirms that they will indeed drink the cup from which He drinks.  Draining the cup in the Old Testament (the only Bible these men had) meant drinking from the cup of God’s wrath or indignation against sin.  Jesus drained the cup of God’s wrath when He suffered and died upon the cross for us.  James and John could never do this, but they would endure great suffering as apostles laying the foundation stones of the early church.  Recall that James was murdered by King Herod (cf. Acts 12).  John was imprisoned, beaten, and exiled to an island to die.  They didn’t understand the cost of being identified as disciples of Christ.  They would actively participate in the suffering of Jesus Christ.

Be Baptized – Passive Participation in Suffering

You do not know what you ask.  Are you able to …be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? – Mark 10.38b

Again, James and John affirm that they are able.  Jesus affirms that they will indeed be baptized with such a baptism.  Baptism is a figure that means being fully immersed in something.  Here a person is fully immersed in the suffering that comes from external means and not of his own doing.  Jesus experienced this baptism culminating in His death.  Were James and John able?  They believed they were able but didn’t fully comprehend what this meant.

Jesus continues by affirming that the baptism will come upon these men.  He then concludes by saying:

But to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared. – Mark 10.40

Matthew supplements the thoughts recorded in Mark by saying that these places of honor are actually prepared by God the Father (cf. Matt 20.23).  Honor is prepared by the Father for those whom He chooses to honor.  Also, the Father will prepare the men and women who take these positions of honor.  That should do away with any thoughts of envy or self-seeking.  Those on the left and right of Jesus in Heaven will certainly deserve those positions.  The character forged upon the anvil of suffering in this life will earn these positions because endurance for them came from the grace and mercy of Almighty God in the first place.

It’s hard to point out when someone is being selfish.  Some are overly cautious with selfish people.  They worry about speaking too bluntly when it comes to revealing such a character flaw in another person.  Others are overbearing and can hardly wait to point out such flaws!  Jesus show us the way in this passage of Scripture.  He used the selfish orientation of these men to instruct them carefully, compassionately, patiently, and effectively.

Jesus revealed the thinking of these men.  I understand that they were thinking of themselves instead of Jesus.  They were thinking of a temporal, earthly kingdom.  This means that they didn’t understand the yet third prediction of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection stated earlier in this passage.  They thought in temporal terms and were emboldened to ask for positions of prestige and power.  They were not thinking of the suffering and selflessness that paves the way to such positions.  Were they able?  Are you able?

I hope you desire position and privilege within God’s Kingdom.  I do.  But we must remember that such position is won through conflict, trial, and suffering.  Don’t look for ambition and privilege in this life.  Look instead for suffering, tribulation, persecution, and even martyrdom.  The Father is preparing special positions of honor.  Jesus is preparing a place in Heaven for us.  Our cup and baptism on earth may be difficult and beyond us, but one day a great exchange will take place.  We will be compensated beyond comprehension!

Life-Givers and Life-Graspers

You would think that the king would be the first to eat at the rich banqueting tables of his palace.  But tables heavily laden with delectable, rich food provide an excellent opportunity for an enemy to poison the king.  So a man was chosen to go before the king and taste his food.  How would you like to be that man?  Going first in life is not always desirable; it’s often risky and dangerous.  Even so there is a big difference between the desire to be first and the fortitude to go first.  Those who would be first are selfish; those who would go first are selfless.

Now [Jesus, the Twelve, and others] were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” ” (Mark 10:32–34)

Amazed and Afraid

The apostles of Jesus were amazed.  Those who followed at a distance were afraid.  Why the amazement and fear?  It stems from the confident and steadfast stride of Jesus as He moves toward the cross, the instrument of His death.  Mark 10 is about discipleship and mentoring.  Jesus taught His disciples about the importance and permanency of marriage because of the natural tendency to search out loopholes in order to escape from our responsibilities before God (10.1-12).  Second, Jesus also taught the disciples about the importance of receiving the Kingdom of God and maintaining our citizenship with quiet, loving dependence (10.13-16).  Finally, Jesus taught His disciples about the importance of complete reliance upon Him and nothing else for the joy of eternal life (10.17-31).

Three passages prefacing the one under our consideration stress the importance of faithfulness.  Whatever it means to follow Jesus Christ, it most certainly will include a component of dependability.  Jesus modeled faithfulness as the selfless savior, the ransom and servant of all.  He leads out before all of His disciples:  those who follow close and are amazed and those who follow at a distance and are afraid.


Roads leading to Jerusalem necessitate an ascent.  Jesus is ascending in more ways than one.  The road to Jerusalem on this day was the ascent to the climax of His ministry.  As He does so, He offers the third and fullest prediction of what awaited Him.  The following components detail the prediction for us:

  • His betrayal to the chief priests and scribes (Sanhedrin)
  • Condemnation by the Sanhedrin
  • The deliverance of Jesus to the Romans due to the fact that the Jewish leaders could not enforce capital punishment on their own
  • The mocking, scourging, and spitting
  • The murder of Jesus Christ
  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ

The three predictions in the Gospel of Mark have two common elements:  the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus set His face like a flint toward Jerusalem knowing what would befall Him.  The sorrowful, bleak, and difficult ascent up the Jerusalem road forms quite a contrast with the resurrection and redemption that would be the end result of Jesus’ finished work.  There is a contrast between the confident Master and the beleaguered disciple.  It is unfortunate that this contrast continues to the present day.  This in spite of all we know.

Life-Giver or Life-Grasper

It is a contrast between the selfish life-graspers (10.35-40) and the selfless Life-giver (10.41-45).  James, John, and the other ten apostles pitifully demonstrate what it is to grasp life only to lose it.  Jesus is a powerful example of One who selflessly gives His life only to gain redemption for all of us.  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (10.45).  Are you one who serves or one who is served?  Are you a life-giver or a life-grasper?