Here is, I. Christ’s prediction of his own sufferings; this string he harped much upon, though in the ears of his disciples it sounded very harsh and unpleasing.
1. See here how bold he was; when they were going up to Jerusalem, Jesus went before them, as the captain of our salvation, that was now to be made perfect through sufferings, Mark 10:32. Thus he showed himself forward to go on with his undertaking, even when he came to the hardest part of it. Now that the time was at hand, he said, Lo, I come; so far was he from drawing back, that now, more than ever, he pressed forward. Jesus went before them, and they were amazed. They began now to consider what imminent danger they ran themselves into, when they went to Jerusalem; how very malicious the Sanhedrim which sat there was against their Master and them; and they were ready to tremble at the thought of it. To hearten them, therefore, Christ went before them. “Come,” saith he, “surely you will venture where your Master ventures.” Note, When we see ourselves entering upon sufferings, it is encouraging to see our Master go before us. Or, He went before them, and therefore they were amazed; they admired to see with what cheerfulness and alacrity he went on, though he knew he was going to suffer and die. Note, Christ’s courage and constancy in going on with his undertaking for our salvation, are, and will be, the wonder of all his disciples.
2. See here how timorous and faint-hearted his disciples were; As they followed, they were afraid, afraid for themselves, as being apprehensive of their own danger; and justly might they be ashamed of their being thus afraid. Their Master’s courage should have put spirit into them.
3. See here what method he took to silence their fears. He did not go about to make the matter better than it was, nor to feed them with hopes that he might escape the storm, but told them again what he had often told them before, the things that should happen to him. He knew the worst of it, and therefore went on thus boldly, and he will let them know the worst of it. Come, be not afraid; for, (1.) There is no remedy, the matter is determined, and cannot be avoided. (2.) It is only the Son of man that shall suffer; their time of suffering was now at hand, he will now provide for their security. (3.) He shall rise again; the issue of his sufferings will be glorious to himself, and advantageous to all that are his, Mark 10:33, 34. The method and particulars of Christ’s sufferings are more largely foretold here than in any other of the predictions—that he shall first be delivered up by Judas to the chief priests and the scribes; that they shall condemn him to death, but, not having the power to put him to death, shall deliver him to the Gentiles, to the Roman powers, and they shall mock him, and scourge him, and spit upon him, and kill him. Christ had a perfect foresight, not only of his own death, but of all the aggravating circumstances of it; and yet he thus went forth to meet it.
II. The check he gave to two of his disciples for their ambitious request. This story is much the same here as we had it Matt. 20:20. Only there they are said to have made their request by their mother, here they are said to make it themselves; she introduced them, and presented their petition, and then they seconded it, and assented to it.
Note, 1. As, on the one hand, there are some that do not use, so, on the other hand, there are some that abuse, the great encouragements Christ has given us in prayer. He hath said, Ask, and it shall be given you; and it is a commendable faith to ask for the great things he has promised; but it was a culpable presumption in these disciples to make such a boundless demand upon their Master; We would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. We had much better leave it to him to do for us what he sees fit, and he will do more than we can desire, Eph. 3:20.
2. We must be cautious how we make general promises. Christ would not engage to do for them whatever they desired, but would know from them what it was they did desire; What would ye that I should do for you? He would have them go on with their suit, that they might be made ashamed of it.
3. Many have been led into a snare by false notions of Christ’s kingdom, as if it were of this world, and like the kingdoms of the potentates of this world. James and John conclude, If Christ rise again, he must be a king, and if he be a king, his apostles must be peers, and one of these would willingly be the Primus par regni—The first peer of the realm, and the other next him, like Joseph in Pharaoh’s court, or Daniel in Darius’s.
4. Worldly honour is a glittering thing, with which the eyes of Christ’s own disciples have many a time been dazzled. Whereas to be good should be more our care than to look great, or to have the pre-eminence.
5. Our weakness and short-sightedness appear as much in our prayers as in any thing. We cannot order our speech, when we speak to God, by reason of darkness, both concerning him and concerning ourselves. It is folly to prescribe to God, and wisdom to subscribe.
6. It is the will of Christ that we should prepare for sufferings, and leave it to him to recompense us for them. He needs not be put in mind, as Ahasuerus did, of the services of his people, nor can he forget their work of faith and labour of love. Our care must be, that we may have wisdom and grace to know how to suffer with him, and then we may trust him to provide in the best manner how we shall reign with him, and when, and where, and what, the degrees of our glory shall be.
III. The check he gave to the rest of the disciples, for their uneasiness at it. They began to be much displeased, to have indignation about James and John, Mark 10:41. They were angry at them for affecting precedency, not because it did so ill become the disciples of Christ, but because each of them hoped to have it himself. When the Cynic trampled on Alexander’s foot-cloth, with Calco fastum Alexandri—Now I tread on Alexander’s pride, he was seasonably checked with Sed majori fastu—But with a greater pride of thine own. So these discovered their own ambition, in their displeasure at the ambition of James and John; and Christ took this occasion to warn them against it, and all their successors in the ministry of the gospel, Mark 10:42-44. He called them to him in a familiar way, to give them an example of condescension, then when he was reproving their ambition, and to teach them never to bid their disciples keep their distance. He shows them,
1. That dominion was generally abused in the world (Mark 10:42); That they seemed to rule over the Gentiles, that have the name and title of rulers, they exercise lordship over them, that is all they study and aim at, not so much to protect them, and provide for their welfare, as to exercise authority upon them; they will be obeyed, aim to be arbitrary, and to have their will in every thing. Sic volo, sic jubeo, stat pro ratione voluntas—Thus I will, thus I command; my good pleasure is my law. Their care is, what they shall get by their subjects to support their own pomp and grandeur, not what they shall do for them.
2. That therefore it ought not to be admitted into the church; “It shall not be so among you; those that shall be put under your charge, must be as sheep under the charge of the shepherd, who is to tend them and feed them, and be a servant to them, not as horses under the command of the driver, that works them and beats them, and gets his pennyworths out of them. He that affects to be great and chief, that thrusts himself into a secular dignity and dominion, he shall be servant of all, he shall be mean and contemptible in the eyes of all that are wise and good; he that exalteth himself shall be abased.” Or rather, “He that would be truly great and chief, he must lay out himself to do good to all, must stoop to the meanest services, and labour in the hardest services. Those not only shall be most honoured hereafter, but are most honourable now, who are most useful.” To convince them of this, he sets before them his own example (Mark 10:45); “The Son of man submits first to the greatest hardships and hazards, and then enters into his glory, and can you expect to come to it any other way; or to have more ease and honour than he has?” (1.) He takes upon him the form of a servant, comes not to be ministered to, and waited upon, but to minister, and wait to be gracious. (2.) He comes obedient to death, and to its dominion, for he gives his life a ransom for many; did he die for the benefit of good people, and shall not we study to live for their benefit?