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Who Do You Say I Am?
The Gospel of Mark
Backwards Power

Last week, in the Gospel of Mark chapter 10, Jesus announced... It is Backwards Day in the Kingdom, every day!

--We live our marriages backwards.  We place our spouses above ourselves!

--We treat our kids backwards… They own the kingdom.  We serve the owners. 

--We value money backwards… money is used to serve the kingdom.

We live our lives backwards… We’re #1, becomes… We’re #... last. 


Jesus announced the premise of the kingdom is…


Mark 10:31 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first."


As we continue with the rest of Mark chapter 10, it gets even more backwards…




Mark 10:32-34 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.   And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver (hand over, betray) him over to the Gentiles. (the ethnos, the others) and they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise." 


The geography is moving.  Jesus is on his way to his destiny in Jerusalem.  While on the road, while moving to his appointment on the cross, while moving toward his purpose he teaches another backwards lesson.


Jesus is ahead of the disciples.  They are following Jesus.  Mark wants us to get the picture that Jesus is hiking ahead of the rest. Those who are following him are both amazed and afraid.  This is interesting.  They are amazed that Jesus is headed towards something big in Jerusalem.  They are a bit afraid at what that may mean for them.  Maybe, the disciples are beginning to understand that something confrontational is going to happen in Jerusalem.


This is the most detailed of Jesus’s predictions.  It will be his own people, the leaders of the Jews who are going to betray him to the Romans. 


--Jesus foresees his mocking…

Mark 15:17 they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns,

--Jesus foresees the spit…

Mark 15:19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him

--Jesus foresees the scourging…

Mark 15:15 having scourged Jesus, Pilate delivered Jesus…

--Jesus foresees his death…

Mark 15:24 And they crucified him!


The disciples who follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem were amazed and afraid.


Now, just like in the first two predictions, ironically, as soon as Jesus tells the disciples what is about to happen in Jerusalem, they want to talk about greatness.




Mark 10:35-37 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And he said to them, "What do you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." 


Perhaps, James and John have caught a glimpse of what Jesus is doing.  Jesus is going to Jerusalem to confront evil.  Jesus is going to Jerusalem to battle the enemy.  Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem to lead a rebellion.  James and John may be thinking, this is the beginning of the revolution.  The Messiah is going to make a stand in Jerusalem… Maybe, they understand “after three days rise again” metaphorically.  “There is going to be this battle and it will look like we are going to lose; but then we will rise up and be victorious!”  Jesus does talk metaphorically a lot.  Maybe, James and John are sort of getting it, but not exactly.  Remember, these two witnessed the Transfiguration.  They know he is the One; they know the power; they know God is with him!


Anyway, they ask Jesus, “When you get to the glory part, we want to be your right-hand and left-hand men. We want to be right there with you! We want a part of your victory.  We want to be Vice-Messiah and Command-in-Chief. 


They ask for positions of power in the new kingdom.  If we were honest, we secretly admire James and John.  They have initiative.  They have ambition.  They are taking advantage of the opportunity before them.  They are betting on the underdog.  They are all in.  They want to be in a position of power when the smoke clears.  Those are all the things, we as Americans, value.  James and John, the Sons of Thunder, are our kind of guys.


But James and John forgot…every day is Backwards Day in the kingdom.




Mark 10:38-40 Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"  And they said to him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." 


--Jesus looks into their fiery eyes, knowing they don’t understand what they are asking. 

--Jesus looks into their anxious eyes, as they say, “Yes we are tough, we can handle it, we are with you.” 

--Jesus looks into their enthusiastic eyes and sees their future. James will be the first of the apostles to die, beheaded by Herod.  According to history, John, the disciple Jesus loves, is the last of the apostles to still be alive, who ends up on the island of Patmos, after terrible persecution.  “Yes, you will be baptized with my baptism.”

--Jesus looks into their dedicated eyes, but they are not the ones who will be on his left and right in his glory.  We know who does ends up on his right and left in his glory.  It was not James or John…

Mark 15:27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.


Jesus led his disciples into Jerusalem knowing his baptism was at hand; knowing their baptisms were not far away.


Now, we are ready for the Backwards Day lesson.




Mark 10:41-45 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.  And Jesus called them to him (stops their hike) and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."


Power in the kingdom is backwards.  Power amongst the Gentiles, the ethnos, all others, is a lord it over them, power.  The Romans knew how to lord it over.  The Romans were brutal.  Crucifixion was the ultimate symbol of Roman authority.  “Cross us and you end up on a cross!”  All others rule with power, and might and violence!  The rulers of this world rule with power!  Violence is the nature of power amongst all other kingdoms.  You will obey… or else!


But that is not the way of His Kingdom.  Rule in the kingdom of God is through service, it is through putting others first. Even Jesus did not come in the power of God Almighty, but in the power of cross-shaped sacrifice. 


Power in the kingdom is backwards!


This is significant.  In the Kingdom, in the church, in our congregation, there is no positional power.  There are no offices who get to Lord it over others.  The power here, here within us, is the power of a bondservant.  I obey the elders of our congregation not because of their position. But because of their sacrifice.  Because of their love for me.  I submit to you because of my love for you.  There is no lording over others.  In the kingdom of God all power is based upon ransom.  I give my life as a ransom for many to serve you; to be the power of relationship.


Power in the kingdom is backwards!


You will never hear…

--Me say, “You must do this, because I am the preacher.” 

--You will never hear our elders say, “You have to do that because I am an elder of this church.”

--You will never hear one our deacons say, “Because I said so.”  I am in charge…

--You will never hear a teacher say, “you have to do that because I am the teacher!”

--The only ones you may hear something like this from are the owners of the kingdom… the kids!


Power in the kingdom is backwards!


Power in the kingdom is based in sacrifice.

--Power in the kingdom is the power of those who have given their lives in service.

--Power in the church is the power given to those who love us.

--Power in this congregation is backwards. 


Power in the kingdom is based upon the power of our LORD, who gave himself as a ransom, who ransomed himself into being a bondservant for us.


Jesus came to change power.  Jesus came to rewrite the nature of authority.  Jesus came to demonstrate that the most powerful kind of power is the power of a sacrificial life.  Brute force can coerce obedience.  But the power of a serving life ransoms/transforms people from brutality to life-giving power.  Jesus ransoms people from the power of brutality.  Jesus ransoms people to be the power of sacrifice.


Jesus came to redeem power.  Until Jesus there was only one kind of power in the world…brutality.  Jesus came to teach us a different, more effective, kind of power… the power of putting the last, first.  The cross redeems power.  The cross transforms power. 


The power of the kingdom is backwards!


Then chapter ten ends by putting a bow on this lesson with a perfect object lesson on power.




Mark 10:46-52 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.  And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart. Get up; he is calling you." And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And the blind man said to him, "Rabbi, let me recover my sight." And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.


Follow the map again from beyond the Jordan towards Jerusalem… you hit Jericho on the way.  Jericho is just 15 miles from Jerusalem.  Jesus is the wrapping up of the lessons on Backwards Day in the kingdom at the last stop before getting close to Jerusalem.


The last healing miracle in the Gospel is Bartimaeus. Bar means son of… Timothy… Tony could be Bartimaeus.


I think we are supposed to contrast Bartimaeus with James and John.  What James and John don’t see Bartimaeus sees. Bartimaeus is a model to imitate. Unlike the disciples, who hadn’t really understood what Jesus was about, Bartimaeus gets it…

--He recognizes who Jesus is… the son of David.  Bartimaeus is the first to call Jesus by this messianic title. Son of David would be a military name.  But this Son of David does not come in brutality but with… mercy… “Have mercy on me!”  The power of mercy!

-- Bartimaeus calls Jesus r`abbouni, rhabbouni: my master, my teacher. The same name Mary Magdalene calls Jesus… my master! Earlier when James and John ask the “teacher” to make a request it is a different word… it is “instructor” not the intimate “my teacher”. 

--Bartimaeus asks the kind of thing Jesus does with the backward power of the kingdom… he heals.
Bartimaeus clearly believes Jesus can help him…your faith has saved you’

-- Bartimaeus leaves his begging (the cloak would be spread on the ground to receive money; Jericho is seldom cold enough for anyone to wear a cloak during the day).

--He follows Jesus on the way to the cross.


Unlike James and John who want power and authority – Bartimaeus was made “well” to follow Jesus.


The story is full of irony, for it is the blind man in this crowd who can see Jesus for who he is, and not the disciples.  This is perhaps because we are meant to see Bartimaeus as the paradigm of the disciple, and like a disciple he is said to “follow Jesus on the way” even though the way involved going up to Jerusalem.

--Ben Witherington III




We are now ready for Jerusalem.  Jesus is finished with his lessons on Backwards Day.  Jesus will now demonstrate the premise of the kingdom…


Mark 10:31 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first."



Tim Stidham

September 3, 2017

Los Alamos Church of Christ


Los Alamos Church of Christ - 2323 Diamond Drive - Los Alamos, New Mexico - 87544 - (505) 695.5875