Mark 10:35-45 – True Leadership


Mark 10:35-45


James and John make a misguided request, but Jesus turns it into an opportunity to discuss true leadership.


In parallel with their inability to understand Jesus’ command to accept little children, the disciples also demonstrated their inability to understand Jesus’ new conception of leadership. To their credit, James and John get partway; rather than asking to have seats of honor in Jesus’ earthly kingdom, they request to get the best seats when Jesus comes again in glory. They, at least, have understood that Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom in the world to come. Also, unlike the rich young man, the two brothers have understood that following Jesus will entail suffering.

The rest of the disciples take exception to the request of James and John, perhaps because it was a continuation of their earlier argument over who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). This quarrel gives Jesus another opportunity to explain the shape of leadership among his followers: the greatest is the one who serves, not the one who is served. As he has so many times before, Jesus proclaims that his kingdom does not look like earthly kingdoms. Finally, Jesus summarizes his mission and gives the reason behind the three predictions of his death that he has made: he has come to lay down his life as a ransom for many.