Mark 10:38
As we read the history of our Lord's dealings with his disciples, we are amazed at his unfaltering patience. They had preconceived theories about his kingdom which, in spite of his teaching, they held fast till after his death and resurrection. They constantly expected him to assume temporal power. Why he delayed they did not know; the reason for his present obscurity they could not conceive; but to all his allusions to suffering they gave, and were resolved to give, a figurative interpretation. With all this persistent misconception our Lord was patient. In this he has left us an example of the patience we should cherish towards those who, as we think, misunderstand the truth. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were two of the favored triumvirate, and their mother, Salome, was a near relation of the Virgin Mary. It was she who expressed the request of her sons, first asking for an unconditional promise - such as a Herod might give, but our Lord never. The Old Testament counterpart of this scene is the coming of Rebekah, with her son Jacob, to win the blessing of the firstborn.


1. It was the offspring of ignorance. They littleknew what it would be to stand on the right hand and on the left of their Lord in the day when the word would be fulfilled, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Well might he say, "Ye know not what ye ask." We often set our desires on some object which is vain or wrong. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought;" and sometimes we learn by a bitter experience that it is best to put ourselves trustfully in God's hands. Lot found it so. Of the Israelites, too, it is said, "God gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul."

2. It was the dictate of ambition. Ambition is a wholesome stimulus, if only it is free from selfishness. A teacher can do little with a child who is always satisfied with the lowest position in the class. If your ambition be a lawful one it will not allow you to shirk difficulties, or to get over an obstacle by a doubtful expedient, but it will lead you to a patient and faithful doing of what your hand finds to do. You will go higher, as you faithfully fulfill the duties of the lower sphere. Ask yourself whether the object you are aiming at is worthy of a Christian man; whether the time spent in its pursuit could be better employed; whether God or self is supreme in the motives which are prompting effort, etc. Ambition can be and ought to be tested. Some people are like precious stones, glittering, but non-productive; others are like the plainer millstones, which, by steadfast work, minister food to the hungry and wealth to the nation.

3. It was the outcome of selfishness. One of the best tests we have of the lawfulness of ambition is this question - How does it affect my feelings towards others? There is reason to fear that the idea of these disciples was that the chief places in the kingdom should be allotted to them, regardless of the claims of their brethren. No wonder, then, that they were rebuked by their Lord, and that when the ten heard it they had great indignation. Self-seeking ever tends to separate friends, and to arouse discord in the Christian Church. Selfishness is the root of the indolence that dishonors the disciples of Christ; it is the cause of civil dissensions; it is the spring of the bloody wars that desolate the world; and when it asserts itself in sectarianism it checks the advance of Christ's kingdom, and brings upon the Church paralysis and death. Against it Christ Jesus declared ruthless war. He declared that men must deny themselves if they would follow him; he taught us to love our enemies, and still more our neighbors, and said that if a man would be really great, he must minister to others for his sake.

II. THE REPLY OF OUR LORD. He pointed out the distinction between real greatness and seeming greatness, and declared that dignity in his kingdom was bestowed according to a certain law - the law of moral fitness. A similar law asserts itself everywhere in God's economy. Each plant and animal have their own habitat, and for their well-being we are compelled to study those conditions which the Creator designed for them. The disciples supposed that honor was at the arbitrary disposal of the Lord on the ground of personal favor. It was so with the positions held under the Roman government. The favor of an emperor might appoint a Pontius Pilate Procurator of Judaea, in complete disregard of character and suitability. It was not to be so in Christ's Church, whether on earth or in heaven. There would be distinctions of rank and honor, but they would be given by God to those worthy of dignity, and fit for it. In the kingdom of righteousness nothing would be arbitrary, or dependent upon caprice. To some extent this is so in the attainment of knowledge. Knowledge cannot be given by a teacher because a pupil is a favourite, or because a pupil wishes to be first among competitors; but it is the reward of individual work and consequent fitness. And greatness in heaven will not consist in so many pleasures or dignities, but in the enjoyment of so much life, in the developments of power and in the possibilities of service. These, then, are some of the principles laid down in our Lord's reply:

1. Prepared places are for prepared people. (Ver. 40.)

2. Humble ministry is the source of highest exaltation. (Vers. 43, 44.)

3. Christ's mission is the pattern of Christian service. (Ver. 45.) - A.R.

Ye know not what ye ask.
1. They did ask. Whatever be thy desire, go to Him.

2. These brothers had a definite purpose in coming to Him. Our prayers are often vague and indefinite.

3. These brothers were honest and sincere in their request. What, then, was there to be blamed in the matter? They had a false conception of Christ's glory; also as to the things which were involved in the granting their request. Holiness is a character which is formed within a man; it is not a gift conferred from without. He is the highest in the peerage who has served his Master best. By the cross Christ was elevated to the throne. The text means, "Ye do not know what is implied in the terms you employ in making your request, or what is involved in granting it to you." We may have a definite object in view, we may think it good and desirable; but we cannot trace it through all its bearings; we cannot see how it would affect us if bestowed; nor can we tell what may be required from us before it can be granted. The omniscient One alone can discern what is involved in our petitions. He will answer our prayers, if not in the letter, yet in the spirit. You ask for success in life, having in mind external prosperity. But God's view of success is a very different affair; in His estimation, success consists in what a man is, not in what he has; and He gives you that success by denying you the other. You ask for forgiveness, and expect it in joy. God answers by showing you more thoroughly your sins. We pray for holiness; it comes through sore trial. Thus God answers the prayer for purity.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

A beautiful instance of this in the life of the great Church father, , has often given both consolation and light. He wished to leave Carthage, where he had become deeply entangled in the snares of sin, and to visit Rome, then the metropolis of the world; but his pious mother, , restrained him with her tears, and would not let him go, being afraid that he would encounter still more dangerous snares in the great city. He promised to her to remain; but, forgetful of his duty, he embarked in a vessel under the cloud of night, and in that very Italy to which her affection was afraid to let him go, he found salvation and was converted. Pondering in his mind how the Eternal Love had conducted him to where he himself had thought of going only in the forwardness of his heart, he says, in his "Confessions," "But thou, my God, listening in Thy high and heavenly counsels to what was the scope of my mother's wishes, refused her what she prayed for, at that time, that Thou mightest grant her what was at all times the subject of her prayers."

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

A tradition current in Wales is a striking illustration of these words. It is said that an old woman, who was very ungodly, was once travelling from Cardiff to a neighbouring town, some twelve miles distant, for the purpose of selling her vegetables. It was a winter's day, the east wind was blowing, and drove the hail and sleet right in her face, causing her to give vent to sundry curses and evil exclamations. When she was nearing the end of her journey, she began in a most irreverent manner to pray that the wind might turn to her back. Extraordinary to relate, the wind did turn, and for about five minutes she had the comfort of a tolerably easy journey. But, alas, poor short-sighted creature! she finished the sale of her goods, and at almost dark started to return home; but the wind, which she had been so anxious should change, had done so, and was there. fore again in her face. She had forgotten, when she prayed in the morning that it might turn, that to go home she would have to turn too, and then be exposed to its violence during the cold and dark night. The storm, too, had increased in fury, and it was not till the next morning that the old woman reached her native town.

Plans of Sermons.
We cannot drink Christ's cup of suffering so —



III.With such bitter ingredients.

IV.So capacious.


(Plans of Sermons.)

? —

I. Consider THE CUP PRESENTED TO OUR SAVIOUR AND THE MANNER IN WHICH HE DRANK IT. David speaks of a cup of joy (Psalm 23:5; Psalm 116:13); but there is a cup of affliction (Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15).

1. It was a bitter cup, consisting of the bitter ingredients of sin and wrath.

2. It was deep and large, and contained much like that which was presented to Judah in her captivity (Ezekiel 23:32).

3. It was a cup without mixture, it had torment without ease. In what manner did our Saviour drink this bitter cup?

(1)He did it not ignorantly, but knowingly.

(2)He did it not reluctantly, but freely.

(3)He drank it not partially, but entirely.


1. As no one can do what Christ did, so no one can suffer what He suffered.

2. Though no one can suffer what Christ suffered, yet His people must have some fellowship with Him in His sufferings, and be conformable to His death.

3. The people of God must expect trials.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

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