Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
JOHN, AND THE
Third Announcement of His approaching Sufferings, Death, and
32. And they were in the way--on the road.
going up to Jerusalem--in Perea, and probably somewhere between
Ephraim and Jericho, on the farther side of the Jordan, and to the
northeast of Jerusalem.
and Jesus went before them--as GROTIUS says, in the style of an
and they were amazed--or "struck with astonishment" at His courage
in advancing to certain death.
and as they followed, they were afraid--for their own safety. These
artless, lifelike touches--not only from an eye-witness, but one whom
the noble carriage of the Master struck with wonder and awe--are
peculiar to Mark, and give the second Gospel a charm all its own; making
us feel as if we ourselves were in the midst of the scenes it describes.
Well might the poet exclaim:
| "The Saviour, what a noble flame
Was kindled in His breast,
When, hasting to Jerusalem,
He march'd before the rest!"
And he took again the twelve--referring to His previous announcements
on this sad subject.
and began to tell them what things should happen unto him--"were going
to befall Him." The word expresses something already begun but not
brought to a head, rather than something wholly future.
33. Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem--for the last time, and--"all
things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall
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--This is the first express statement that the Gentiles
would combine with the Jews in His death; the two grand divisions of the
human race for whom He died thus taking part in crucifying the Lord of
Glory, as WEBSTER and
34. 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--Singularly explicit as this announcement was, Luke
says "they understood none of these things; and this saying was hid
from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken." The meaning
of the words they could be at no loss to understand, but their import
in relation to His Messianic kingdom they could not penetrate; the
whole prediction being right in the teeth of their preconceived
notions. That they should have clung so tenaciously to the popular
notion of an "unsuffering" Messiah, may surprise us; but it
gives inexpressible weight to their after-testimony to a suffering and
Ambitious Request of James and John--The Reply
35. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him,
says their "mother came to Him with her sons, worshipping Him and
desiring," &c. (Compare
with Mr 15:40).
Salome was her name
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"
but after the reproof so lately given them
&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.
36. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?--Though well aware what was in their mind and their mother's, our Lord
will have the unseemly petition uttered before all.
37. Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the
other on thy left hand, in thy glory--that is, Assign to us the two
places of highest honor in the coming kingdom. The semblance of a plea
for so presumptuous a request might possibly have been drawn from the
fact that one of the two usually leaned on the breast of Jesus, or sat
next Him at meals, while the other was one of the favored three.
38. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask--How gentle the
reply to such a request, preferred at such a time, after the sad
announcement just made!
can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?--To "drink of a cup" is in
Scripture a figure for getting one's fill either of good
(Ps 16:5; 23:5; 116:13;
or of ill
Here it is the cup of suffering.
and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized
with?--(Compare for the language,
The object of this question seems to have been to try how far those two
men were capable of the dignity to which they aspired and this
on the principle that he who is able to suffer most for His sake will
be the nearest to Him in His kingdom.
39. And they said unto him, We can--Here we see them owning
their mother's petition for them as their own; and doubtless they were
perfectly sincere in professing their willingness to follow their
Master to any suffering He might have to endure. As for James,
he was the first of the apostles who was honored, and showed himself
able to be baptized with his Master's baptism of blood
(Ac 12:1, 2);
while John, after going through all the persecutions to which
the infant Church was exposed from the Jews, and sharing in the
struggles and sufferings occasioned by the first triumphs of the Gospel
among the Gentiles, lived to be the victim, after all the rest had got
to glory, of a bitter persecution in the evening of his days, for the
word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. Yes, they were dear
believers and blessed men, in spite of this unworthy ambition, and
their Lord knew it; and perhaps the foresight of what they would have
to pass through, and the courageous testimony He would yet receive from
them, was the cause of that gentleness which we cannot but wonder at in
And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink
of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be
baptized--No doubt this prediction, when their sufferings at length
came upon them, cheered them with the assurance, not that they would sit
on His right and left hand--for of that thought they would be heartily
ashamed--but that "if they suffered with Him, they should be also
40. But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand in not mine to
give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared--"of My
The supplement which our translators have inserted is approved by some
good interpreters, and the proper sense of the word rendered "but" is
certainly in favor of it. But besides that it makes the statement too
elliptical--leaving too many words to be supplied--it seems to make our
Lord repudiate the right to assign to each of His people his place in
the kingdom of glory; a thing which He nowhere else does, but rather
the contrary. It is true that He says their place is "prepared for them
by His Father." But that is true of their admission to heaven at all;
and yet from His great white throne Jesus will Himself adjudicate the
kingdom, and authoritatively invite into it those on His right hand,
calling them the "blessed of His Father"; so little inconsistency is
there between the eternal choice of them by His Father, and that public
adjudication of them, not only to heaven in general, but each to his
own position in it, which all Scripture assigns to Christ. The true
rendering, then, of this clause, we take it, is this: "But to sit on My
right hand and on My left hand is not Mine to give, save to them for
whom it is prepared." When therefore He says, "It is not Mine to give,"
the meaning is, "I cannot give it as a favor to whomsoever I
please, or on a principle of favoritism; it belongs
exclusively to those for whom it is prepared," &c. And if this be His
meaning, it will be seen how far our Lord is from disclaiming the right
to assign to each his proper place in His Kingdom; that on the
contrary, He expressly asserts it, merely announcing that the principle
of distribution is quite different from what these petitioners
supposed. Our Lord, it will be observed, does not deny the
petition of James and John, or say they shall not occupy the
place in His kingdom which they now improperly sought:--for aught we
know, that may be their true place. All we are sure of is, that
their asking it was displeasing to Him "to whom all judgment is
committed," and so was not fitted to gain their object, but just the
reverse. (See what is taught in
One at least of these brethren, as ALFORD
strikingly remarks, saw on the right and on the left hand of their
Lord, as He hung upon the tree, the crucified thieves; and bitter
indeed must have been the remembrance of this ambitious prayer at that
41. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with
James and John--or "were moved with indignation," as the same word is
The expression "began to be," which is of frequent occurrence in
the Gospels, means that more passed than is expressed, and that we have
but the result. And can we blame the ten for the indignation which they
felt? Yet there was probably a spice of the old spirit of rivalry in
it, which in spite of our Lord's recent lengthened, diversified, and
most solemn warnings against it, had not ceased to stir in their
42. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that
they which are accounted to rule--are recognized or acknowledged as
over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them: and their great ones
exercise authority upon them--as superiors exercising an acknowledged
authority over inferiors.
43. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great
among you, shall be your minister--a subordinate servant.
44. And whosoever of you will be the chiefest--or "first."
shall be--that is, "let him be," or "shall be he who is prepared
servant of all--one in the lowest condition of service.
45. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to
minister, and to give his life a ransom for many--"instead of
many," that is, "In the kingdom about to be set up, this principle
shall have no place. All My servants shall there be equal; and the only
greatness known to it shall be the greatness of humility and
devotedness to the service of others. He that goes down the deepest in
these services of self-denying humility shall rise the highest and hold
the chiefest place in that kingdom; even as the Son of man, whose
abasement and self-sacrifice for others, transcending all, gives Him of
right a place above all!" As "the Word in the beginning with God," He
was ministered unto; and as the risen Redeemer in our nature He
now is ministered unto, "angels and authorities and powers being
made subject unto Him"
but not for this came He hither. The Served of all came to be the
Servant of all; and His last act was the grandest Service ever beheld
by the universe of God--"HE GAVE HIS LIFE A
RANSOM FOR MANY!", &c. "Many"
is here to be taken, not in contrast with few or with
all, but in opposition to one--the one Son of man for the