Mark 10:35
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.
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(35-45) And James and John.—See Notes on Matthew 20:20-28. In St. Matthew, their mother is represented as coming with them, and uttering her prayer for them.



Mark 10:35 - Mark 10:45

How lonely Jesus was! While He strode before the Twelve, absorbed in thoughts of the Cross to which He was pressing, they, as they followed, ‘amazed’ and ‘afraid,’ were thinking not of what He would suffer, but of what they might gain. He saw the Cross. They understood little of it, but supposed that somehow it would bring in the kingdom, and they dimly saw thrones for themselves. Hence James and John try to secure the foremost places, and hence the others’ anger at what they thought an unfair attempt to push in front of them. What a contrast between Jesus, striding on ahead with ‘set’ face, and the Twelve unsympathetic and self-seeking, lagging behind to squabble about pre-eminence! We have in this incident two parts: the request and its answer, the indignation of the Ten and its rebuke. The one sets forth the qualifications for the highest place in the kingdom; the other, the paradox that pre-eminence there is service.

James and John were members of the group of original disciples who stood nearest to Jesus, and of the group of three whom He kept specially at His side. Their present place might well lead them to expect pre-eminence in the kingdom, but their trick was mean, as being an underhand attempt to forestall Peter, the remaining one of the three, as putting forward their mother as spokeswoman, and as endeavouring to entrap Jesus into promising before the disclosure of what was desired. Matthew tells that the mother was brought in order to make the request, and that Jesus brushed her aside by directing His answer to her sons {‘Ye know not what ye ask’}. The attempt to get Jesus’ promise without telling what was desired betrayed the consciousness that the wish was wrong. His guarded counter-question would chill them and make their disclosure somewhat hesitating.

Note the strangely blended good and evil of the request. The gold was mingled with clay; selfishness and love delighting in being near Him had both place in it. We may well recognise our own likenesses in these two with their love spotted with self-regard, and be grateful for the gentle answer which did not blame the desire for pre-eminence, but sought to test the love. It was not only to teach them, that He brought them back to think of the Cross which must precede the glory, but because His own mind was so filled with it that He saw that glory only as through the darkness which had to be traversed to reach it. But for us all the question is solemn and heart-searching.

Was not the answer, ‘We are able,’ too bold? They knew neither what they asked nor what they promised; but just as their ignorant question was partly redeemed by its love, their ignorant vow was ennobled by its very rashness, as well as by the unfaltering love in it. They did not know what they were promising, but they knew that they loved Him so well that to share anything with Him would be blessed. So it was not in their own strength that the swift answer rushed to their lips, but in the strength of a love that makes heroes out of cowards. And they nobly redeemed their pledge. We, too, if we are Christ’s, have the same question put to us, and, weak and timid as we are, may venture to give the same answer, trusting to His strength.

The full declaration of what had been only implied in the previous question follows. Jesus tells the two, and us all, that there are degrees in nearness to Him and in dignity in that future, but that the highest places are not given by favouritism, but attained by fitness. He does not deny that He gives, but only that He gives without regard to qualification. Paul expected the crown from ‘the righteous Judge,’ and one of these two brethren was chosen to record His promise of giving a seat on His throne to all that overcome. ‘Those for whom it is prepared’ are those who are prepared for it, and the preparation lies in ‘being made conformable to His death,’ and being so joined to Him that in spirit and mind we are partakers of His sufferings, whether we are called to partake of them in outward form or not.

The two had had their lesson, and next the Ten were to have theirs. The conversation with the former had been private, for it was hearing of it that made the others so angry. We can imagine the hot words among them as they marched behind Jesus, and how they felt ashamed already when ‘He called them.’ What they were to be now taught was not so much the qualifications for pre-eminence in the kingdom, whether here or hereafter, as the meaning of preeminence and the service to which it binds. In the world, the higher men are, the more they are served; in Christ’s kingdom, both in its imperfect earthly and in its perfect heavenly form, the higher men are, the more they serve. So-called ‘Christian’ nations are organised on the former un-Christian basis still. But wherever pre-eminence is not used for the general good, there authority rests on slippery foundations, and there will never be social wellbeing or national tranquillity until Christ’s law of dignity for service and dignity by service shapes and sweetens society. ‘But it is not so among you’ laid down the constitution for earth, and not only for some remote heaven; and every infraction of it, sooner or later, brings a Nemesis.

The highest is to be the lowest; for He who is ‘higher than the highest’ has shown that such is the law which He obeys. The point in the heaven that is highest above our heads is in twelve hours deepest beneath our feet. Fellowship in Christ’s sufferings was declared to be the qualification for our sharing in His dignity. His lowly service and sacrificial death are now declared to be the pattern for our use of dignity. Still the thought of the Cross looms large before Jesus, and He is not content with presenting Himself as the pattern of service only, but calls on His disciples to take Him as the pattern of utter self-surrender also. We cannot enter on the great teaching of these words, but can only beseech all who hear them to note how Jesus sets forth His death as the climax of His work, without which even that life of ministering were incomplete; how He ascribes to it the power of ransoming men from bondage and buying them back to God; and of how He presents even these unparalleled sufferings, which bear or need no repetition as long as the world lasts, as yet being the example to which our lives must be conformed. So His lesson to the angry Ten merges into that to the self-seeking two, and declares to each of us that, if we are ever to win a place at His right hand in His glory, we must here take a place with Him in imitating His life of service and His death of self-surrender for men’s good. ‘If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.’

Mark 10:35-40. And James and John come to him, saying — By their mother, (see Matthew 20:20,) for it was she, not they, that uttered the words: Master, we would that thou shouldest do, &c. — Here, again, the disciples show their utter ignorance of the prophecies, and of their Master’s kingdom, by an action which likewise discovered, in the clearest manner, the temper of mind they were in, and the motives from which they followed Christ. They seem to have fancied that by his resurrection, after his sufferings, was meant, his taking possession of the great empire which they believed he was come to erect; and therefore they no sooner heard him mention his rising from the dead, than they came and begged the favour of him, that he would confer on them the chief posts in his kingdom. This they expressed by asking to be seated, the one on his right hand, the other on his left, in allusion to his late promise of placing the twelve apostles on twelve thrones, to judge the tribes. But Jesus said, Ye know not what ye ask — Ye know not that ye are asking for sufferings, which must needs pave the way to glory. Can ye drink of the cup — Can ye bear the inward sufferings which I must undergo? and be baptized with the baptism — Can ye endure the outward sufferings which await me? Our Lord was filled with sufferings within, and covered with them without. They said, We can — Being greatly moved with the prospect of the dignities which they were aspiring after, they replied without hesitation, that they were able to drink of his cup, that is, to undergo any hardship with their Master, which he might suffer in the way to his kingdom. Jesus said, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup, &c. — Ye shall certainly share with me in my lot, which they accordingly did. See on Matthew 20:20-23. But to sit on my right hand, &c., is not mine to give, but to them for whom it is prepared — Them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality. For these only eternal life is prepared. To these only he will give it in that day; and to every man his own reward, according to his own labour.

10:32-45 Christ's going on with his undertaking for the salvation of mankind, was, is, and will be, the wonder of all his disciples. Worldly honour is a glittering thing, with which the eyes of Christ's own disciples have many times been dazzled. Our care must be, that we may have wisdom and grace to know how to suffer with him; and we may trust him to provide what the degrees of our glory shall be. Christ shows them that dominion was generally abused in the world. If Jesus would gratify all our desires, it would soon appear that we desire fame or authority, and are unwilling to taste of his cup, or to have his baptism; and should often be ruined by having our prayers answered. But he loves us, and will only give his people what is good for them.See the notes at Matthew 20:20-28.

Mark 10:35

And James and John ...came unto him - They did this through the instrumentality of their mother. They did not come in "person," but they got their mother to make the request for them. Compare the notes at Matthew 20:20.

35. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying—Matthew (Mt 20:20) says their "mother came to Him with her sons, worshipping Him and desiring," &c. (Compare Mt 27:56, with Mr 15:40). Salome was her name (Mr 16:1). We cannot be sure with which of the parties the movement originated; but as our Lord, even in Matthew's account, addresses Himself to James and John, taking no account of the mother, it is likely the mother was merely set on by them. The thought was doubtless suggested to her sons by the recent promise to the Twelve of "thrones to sit on, when the Son of man should sit on the throne of His glory" (Mt 19:28); but after the reproof so lately given them (Mr 9:33, &c.) they get their mother to speak for them.

Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire—thus cautiously approaching the subject.

Ver. 35-41. See Poole on "Matthew 20:20", and following verses to Matthew 20:24, where we have the same history with little or no variation, only Matthew tells us that James and John did that by their mother which Mark reports as done by them in person; but there is nothing more ordinary even in our common discourse than to speak of that as done by ourselves, which is done by another on our behalf, at our command or solicitation. Both the evangelists agree in all the other parts of their relation, and in the following discourse also very much.

And James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto him,.... Along with their mother, who was their mouth, and spoke for them, and they by her:

saying, master, we would that thou shouldst do for us whatsoever we shall desire: that is, we earnestly desire, that whereas we have a favour to ask of thee, that thou wouldst not deny us it, be it what it will; See Gill on Matthew 20:20.

{7} And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, {g} we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.

(7) We must first strive before we triumph.

(g) We pray thee.

Mark 10:35-45. See on Matthew 20:20-28. Luke has not this scene.

As to the variation from Matthew 20:20 f., where the peculiar putting forward of the mother is (in opposition to Holtzmann, Weizsäcker, and others) to be regarded as the historically correct form, see on Matthew.

θέλομεν, ἵνα] as at Mark 6:25; John 17:24; and comp. on Luke 6:35.

Mark 10:37. ἐν τῇ δόξῃ σου] not: when thou hast attained to Thy glory (de Wette), but: in Thy glory, which will surround us then, when we sit so near to Thee.

Mark 10:38. ] or, in other words.

The presents πίνω and βαπτίζομαι picture the matter as being realized. The cup and baptism of Jesus represent martyrdom. In the case of the figure of baptism, however (which latter Matthew by way of abridgment omits; it is alleged by Baur that Mark has taken it from Luke 12:50), the point of the similitude lies in the being submerged, not in the purification (forgiveness of sins), as the Fathers have apprehended the baptism of blood (see Suicer, I. p. 627), which is not appropriate to Jesus. Comp. the classical use of καταδύειν and βαπτίζειν, to plunge (immergere) into sufferings, sorrows, and the like (Xen. Cyrop. vi. 1. 37; Wesseling, ad Diod. I. p. 433). On the construction, comp. Ael. H. A. iii. 42: ὁ πορφυρίων λούεται τὸ τῶν περιστερῶν λουτρόν, al. See in general, Lobeck, Paralip. p. 520.

Mark 10:40. ] or else on the left, not put inappropriately (Fritzsche); the disciples had desired both places of honour, and therefore Jesus now says that none depends on Him, whether the sitting be on the right hand or else on the left.

ἀλλʼ οἷς ἡτοίμασται] Matthew has added the correctly explanatory amplification: ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου.

Mark 10:41. ἤρξαντο] Jesus, namely, at once appeased their indignation.

Mark 10:42. οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν] peculiar to Mark and original, denoting the essential basis of the Gentile rule,—the having the repute of rulers,—not equivalent to οἱ ἄρχοντες (Gataker, Raphel, Homberg, Kypke, Rosenmüller, and many more), but: “qui censentur imperare, i.e. quos gentes habent et agnoscunt, quorum imperio pareant” (Beza, comp. Casaubon and Grotius). Comp. Galatians 2:9; Winer, p. 540 [E. T. 766]; Möller, neue Ansichten, p. 158 ff., who, however, as Fritzsche also, explains: who imagine themselves to rule, which in itself (as τῶν ἐθνῶν refers to the Gentiles, whose rulers were no shadow-kings) and in respect of the context (which requires the general idea of rulers) is unsuitable. Compare, moreover, the close echo of the passage before us in Luke 22:25 from tradition.

Mark 10:43. The reading ἐστίν is as little inappropriate (in opposition to Fritzsche) as Matthew 20:26.

Mark 10:45. καὶ γάρ] for even. As the master, so the disciples, Romans 15:3.

Mark 10:35-45. The sons of Zebedee (Matthew 20:20-28), showing the comic side of the drama.

35–45. The Ambitious Apostles

35. James and John] and with them their mother Salome, to ask the same favour on their behalf. She was one of the constant attendants of our Lord, and now falling on her knees preferred her request (Matthew 20:10). Nothing could have been more ill-timed than this selfish petition when He was going forth to His death.

Mark 10:35. Προσπορεύονται) go together to Him.—θέλομεν, ποιήσῃς, we would that thou shouldst do) So in the following ver., What would ye that I should do?ποιήσῃς· ποιῆσαι· δός, that thou shouldst do; that I should do? Grant) They use art in their request; for petitions are often more readily asked and obtained, which consist in doing, than those which consist in granting or giving.

Verse 35. - And there come near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee. St. Matthew (Luke 20:20) informs us that this request was made by Salome, "the mother of Zebedee's children." The two accounts are readily reconciled if we consider that the request was made by Salome and her sons, and by her in their behalf. This request was made by them not long after they had heard our Lord's great promise that his apostles "in the regeneration" should "sit upon thrones," judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28). He and very soon after they had heard his repeated announcement of his sufferings and death. But the thought of the glory which was to follow swallowed up the thought of the suffering that was to precede it; and so these two disciples were emboldened at once to ask for prominent positions amongst the thrones. St. Chrysostom finds an excuse for the imperfection of their faith. He says, "The mystery of the cross was not yet accomplished; nor yet was the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into their hearts. Wherefore, if you desire to know the strength of their faith, consider what they became after they had been endued with power from on high." Mark 10:35
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