The Cup and the Crown: The Humility of Embracing Suffering

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by John Mark. More specially, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-five through fifty-two of the tenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will essentially find two distinct events taking place within this particular time during Jesus’ life. Within this passage of scripture there are two specific events which took place—one which was specifically between Jesus and His disciples, and another which took place between Jesus and a certain blind man who was sitting on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho. If you begin reading this particular passage of scripture you will find two of Jesus’ disciples—James and John, the sons of Zebedee—coming unto Jesus and asking Him for some specific and something very particular. As you read this exchange which took place between Jesus and these two brothers you will find them asking for something that is in all reality quite interesting and intriguing. James and John—these sons of thunder whom Jesus so aptly names them—asked Jesus that they might sit beside Him in His glory. Put more specifically, that which they asked Jesus was that one might sit at His right hand, and the other might sit at His left hand when He sat down at the right hand of His Father in glory. I have to admit that this request is actually quite interesting and intriguing when you take the time to think about and consider it, for the disciples weren’t asking for something light or even easy. That which these two disciples were asking for was for a certain and specific place of prominence within the kingdom of heaven when Jesus entered into His glory and sat down at the right hand of the Father. Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous weight and magnitude of their request, for that which they were asking was not even that they might be with Jesus when He entered into and when He returned to His glory, but rather that they might each sit on one side of Him in a His kingdom. Essentially that which they were asking for was a place of prominence and a place of honor within the kingdom of heaven—a place of elevated stature and position before all those who would enter into the kingdom of heaven.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be gripped and captivated by what we find and read within this passage of scripture for within this passage we find a distinct connection between the cup and the seat. Within this passage of scripture we find a wonderful and awesome picture between the cup of suffering which Jesus Himself would most certainly drink and a place of honor within the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that within this particular passage of scripture we find a clear and powerful link between the baptism which Jesus Himself would be baptized with, and honor within the kingdom of heaven. It’s actually quite interesting and intriguing to read and consider the fact that when Jesus heard the request which James and Hohn made and asked of Him, He immediately began speaking to them—both of the cup which He Himself would drink, as well as the baptism which He would indeed be baptized with. What we must pay close attention to when reading this passage of scripture is the direct and succinct link that exists between the cup of suffering and the baptism of suffering and honor within the kingdom of heaven. We must recognize and understand the tremendous link that exists between drinking the cup of suffering which Jesus Himself would drink, and being baptized with the same baptism which Jesus would be baptized with and placement within the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that we must come to the place where we recognize that what we do and how we live our lives here on the earth has a direct and clear link between what we experience here on the earth and what we experience within the kingdom of heaven. There is and there has always been a powerful and distinct link between the suffering we face and the suffering we experience upon the earth and the reality we experience when we enter into the kingdom of heaven. Within this passage Jesus clearly inks drinking the cup He drank from and being baptized with the baptism He would be baptized with with the kingdom of heaven. And the fullness of the reality of the kingdom of heaven we experience within that moment when we pass from time into the realm of eternity. The question which James and John asked Jesus the Christ on this particular occasion was not even an initial question on suffering or even drinking from the cup which Jesus drank from, but rather one of prominence and honor. In order for us to understand what is truly taking place within this passage of Scripture we must understand the direct connection between the cross and the crown, and how there are many people who want the crown, and yet are completely unwilling and unable to accept the cross that precedes the crown.

In order to get started with the writing and passage that is before us today I feel it absolutely necessary to call our attention to a familiar passage that is found within the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation. If you turn and direct your attention to the second chapter of this epistle which the apostle Paul wrote you will find the apostle writing something very specific concerning Jesus the Christ—something that was not readily or immediately seen when He walked upon the earth, and perhaps wasn’t even fully recognized when He was raised by the Spirit of the living God from death to life. If you begin reading with the first verse of the second chapter of the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Philippian congregation you will find the apostle initially beginning to write about what type of mindset and what type of heart we should have as the saints and people of God. What the apostle Paul then does is draws from that particular reality of how we should act and how we should conduct ourselves and directly links it to the life of Jesus and the suffering He experienced while walking upon the earth. I would like to draw your attention to the words which are written and recorded within this passage of Scripture beginning with the first verse of the chapter. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were present within the church that was located at Philippi:

“If there be there any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in loneliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputing: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labour Ed in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).

What we find within this particular passage of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful declaration of the tremendous humility which was found within the person of Jesus Christ who not only humbled himself, but also humbled himself to the point of suffering and the point of death. That which we find within this passage of Scripture is in fact a wonderful picture of the tremendous humility which Jesus exercised in not only taking on the form of human flesh, but also humbling Himself to the point of suffering, and ultimately death. Within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul declares that Jesus who was in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal to God, but in fact made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. What’s more, is that Jesus who was found in fashion as a man humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. What is quite remarkable and astounding within this passage of Scripture is not only the fact that we read of the humility of Jesus the Christ, but we also read of the honor which Jesus received as a direct result of that humility. There is within this passage of Scripture a clear and direct link between the humility of Jesus—a humility which enabled Him to experience and walk through suffering as a man—and the great honor the living God and Father bestowed upon Him when He entered into His glory and was seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven. What’s more, is that within the New Testament gospel of Mark we find three distinct and three specific references to the suffering of Jesus—suffering which would ultimately lead to death and resurrection from the grave. The first reference is in fact found in the preceding passage immediately before we read of James and John asking Jesus that they might each sit next to and beside Him when He entered into His kingdom. If you turn your attention back to the thirty-second verse of this tenth chapter you will find the following words written and recorded by John Mark concerning Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem, as well as that which Jesus understood concerning His divine mission within and upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark beginning with the thirty-second verse:

“And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And He took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto Him, saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: and they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again” (Mark 10:32-34).

Within this passage of Scripture we not only find Jesus deliberately and intentionally making His way and journeying toward the city of Jerusalem, but we find Him going ahead and going before the disciples. The way John Mark presents us with this particular reality is that Jesus not only journeyed to Jerusalem, but ultimately traveled before and ahead of the disciples, and the disciples followed behind Him closely. What’s more, is that John Mark also goes on to write the response of the disciples when they observed the actions of Jesus, for on the one hand Mark writes and records that as Jesus went before them, the disciples were amazed—perhaps at the deliberate and intentional resolve of Jesus to not shy away from, nor try and avoid Jerusalem, but to deliberately and intentionally make His way to Jerusalem knowing full well what would befall Him there within that city. When Mark wrote concerning this particular event within the life and ministry of Jesus, he initially began by writing how the disciples followed Jesus and were amazed, but Mark goes on to write how as they followed Him they were also afraid. AMAZEMENT AND FEAR! AMAZED, YET AFRAID! I can’t help but read this particular passage of Scripture and consider the fact that the disciples were amazed at the resolve within Jesus’ heart, for instead of trying to avoid Jerusalem, and ultimately try and avoid the place of suffering and death, He embraced it with everything that was within Him. In fact, the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews helped paint a clear picture of this reality when they wrote the following words which are found within the twelfth chapter of the epistle. Consider if you will the words which are found within the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews beginning with the first verse of the twelfth chapter:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compasses about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord liveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the presence seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:1-11).

That which is written and that which is contained within this passage of Scripture is actually quite remarkable and quite astounding, for within this passage of Scripture we read of Jesus enduring the cross and despising the shame of it in order that He might receive and experience the joy that was set before Him. THE JOY IN THE CROSS! THE JOY IN THE SUFFERING! Within this passage of Scripture we find the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews writing how Jesus endured the cross, and despised the shame that was associated with it because of the joy that was set before Him. Please make no mistake about it when you consider the suffering which Jesus endured, and the suffering which Jesus experienced while He walked among us as a man upon the earth, for while the suffering which He faced, and the suffering He endured was not pleasant, there was a joy that was set before Him that completely overwhelmed the suffering, and completely overwhelmed the shame that was directly associated with it. WHEN THE SHAME OF SUFFERING IS OVERWHELMED BY JOY! I am convinced that what the disciples experienced and witnessed on this particular occasion while following Jesus was not only His steadfast resolve in deliberately and intentionally walking unto Jerusalem, but also His seeming disregard for His own life, and His seeming disregard for the shame and suffering He would experience within the city. It’s worth noting that not only did John Mark write of the word amazed, but he also wrote and used the work “afraid,” when speaking of the disciples response and reaction to Jesus’ journey toward the city of Jerusalem. John Mark writes and records how while the disciples were going up to Jerusalem together with Jesus, Jesus went before them, and they were absolutely and incredibly amazed at His deliberate and intentional resolve. Perhaps they could not completely understand what would drive and what would propel Jesus to not only journey to the city of Jerusalem, but also wholeheartedly embrace it with everything that was inside and within Him. It’s worth noting the disciples’ response when observing Jesus the Christ, for not only were they amazed at Jesus’ actions, but Scripture also records that they were afraid. The question I can’t help but ask and wonder is whether or not it is possible to both be amazed and to be afraid when thinking about and considering the Lord Jesus Christ. The disciples observed the resolve and deliberate purpose of Jesus to travel and journey toward Jerusalem, and quite honestly, I would dare say that it amazed and astonished Him that He would not avoid Jerusalem, that He would not avoid the scorn and shame that would be experienced at the hands of the scribes, the elders of Israel and the chief priests, and that He would not avoid the suffering, and ultimately death, but would actually embrace it with everything that was present within Him. There is not a doubt in my mind that the disciples were amazed at the resolve that Jesus had as He made His way toward the city of Jerusalem knowing full well that which would befall and come upon Him there, but they were also afraid for the very same reason. They were afraid because based on what He told them, His journey to Jerusalem would not only mean His betrayal, but it would also mean His suffering, His scorn, His shame, and all the ridicule and mockery He would experience there.

In all reality, before I transition back to the text which is at hand within the New Testament gospel of Mark I find it absolutely necessary to call and bring our attention to words which were penned by an ancient Old Testament prophet by the name of Isaiah. If you read and study the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah you will find that there was perhaps no other prophet who saw the Messiah as clear as the prophet Isaiah. While it might have been true that Old Testament prophets had a glimpse of the Messiah which was to come within and upon the earth, the prophet Isaiah was the one prophet who received such a thorough and detailed picture of the Messiah. As you read the words which are written and recorded within the prophetic book which bears His name you will come to the fifty-third chapter of the book—a chapter which not only describes and points to the Messiah, but also speaks specifically concerning the suffering the Messiah would face and experience while walking upon the earth. I am thoroughly convinced that if we are to truly understand the resolve and the deliberate and intentional purpose of Jesus as He traveled to the city of Jerusalem, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand and consider this Old Testament passage of Scripture, for it perfectly describes the suffering which Jesus the Christ would face and experience while upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the first verse of the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah:

“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hide as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon HIM; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken. And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul and offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:1-11).

I am convinced that in order for us to understand that which is found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by Mark concerning James and John it is necessary that we understand the suffering of Jesus—the cup which He was to drink, as well as the baptism which He was to be baptized with—for only when we understand His suffering can we truly understand the suffering which we face and which we experience. Within this passage of Scripture we find James and John, the sons of Zebedee, coming unto Jesus, and asking Him that He would grant unto them that they might sit, one on His right hand, and the other on His left hand in His glory. What I find to be so absolutely remarkable and astounding when I consider this particular passage of Scripture is Jesus’ response to these two disciples, for upon hearing their request, Jesus immediately declares unto them that they know not what they asked and were asking. What transpires immediately after this is Jesus asking each of these disciples if they were willing to drink of the cup which He drank of, and to be baptized with the baptism which He was baptized with. Of course the disciples immediately responded by declaring unto Jesus that they were able to drink the cup which He drank, and to be baptized with the same baptism He was baptized. Why would they disagree with Jesus’ question? Why would they respond to Jesus’ question by telling Him that they wouldn’t be able to drink the same cup He drank from, and to be baptized with the same baptism He was baptized with? What’s worth noting and pointing out is that when Jesus heard their response, He immediately declared unto them that they would indeed drink the cup that He drank of, and they would indeed be baptized with the baptism which He would be baptized with, however, as it pertained and as it related to sitting on His right hand and on His left hand, such was not His to give. It’s interesting and worth noting that Jesus did agree with them and declare unto them that they would indeed drink the cup of suffering He would drink from, and they would indeed be baptized with the same baptism He Himself would be baptized with, however, to sit on His right hand, and to sit on His left hand was not His to give. What so amazes and intrigues me about Jesus’ mention of the cup of suffering which He was to drink is what the beloved physician Luke writes and records concerning Jesus’ experience within the garden of Gethsemane, for within the garden of Gethsemane we find Jesus speaking directly unto the Father in heaven concerning the cup which He was to drink, and He even asked if it was possible that the cup would be removed from Him so He wouldn’t have to drink from it. Consider if you will the account of Jesus in the garden as it was recorded by the beloved physician in his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ:

“And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the mount of Olives; and His disciples also followed Him. And when He was at the place, He said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will by thine be down. And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when He rose up from prayer, and was come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46).

This same passage of Scripture is also found in the various other gospels, and I would draw your attention to that which is written and recorded within the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Beginning with the thirty-sixth verse of this particular chapter we find the following words which were written concerning Jesus’ time there in the garden of Gethsemane:

“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And He came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold the hour is at hand, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:36-46).

Having a good understanding of the suffering of Jesus the Christ, and considering Jesus’ words which were spoken unto James and John concerning their drinking the cup which He Himself would drink from, and concerning their being baptized with the same baptism He was baptized with, I feel compelled to bring and call your attention to the words which the apostle Peter—one who was with Jesus there in the garden of Gethsemane—wrote concerning the suffering of Christ, as well as concerning the suffering which we face and experience within and during our lives. Beginning with the seventeenth verse of the third chapter we find the following words which were written by the apostle—not only concerning the suffering of our Messiah, but also the suffering which we as the saints and people of God will experience within and throughout the course of our lives:

“For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: Bey which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him…”

“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, reveling, banqueting, and abominable idolatries: wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: who shall give account of him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath receive the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the orcalces of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 3:17-4:16).

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