Sabbath, August 24, 2013
“The one who stands nearest to Christ will be he who on earth has drunk most deeply of the spirit of His self-sacrificing love–love that ‘vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,… seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil’ (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5)–love that moves the disciple, as it moved our Lord, to give all, to live and labor and sacrifice, even unto death, for the saving of humanity.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 549.
Human ambition among the disciples
1. What discussion developed among the disciples more than once? Was the issue thus settled, or did they extend their speculation beyond this earth to the kingdom of heaven?
Luke 9:46 Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.
Matthew 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
“There was in these words a solemnity and impressiveness which the disciples were far from comprehending. That which Christ discerned they could not see. They did not understand the nature of Christ’s kingdom, and this ignorance was the apparent cause of their contention. But the real cause lay deeper. By explaining the nature of the kingdom, Christ might for the time have quelled their strife; but this would not have touched the underlying cause. Even after they had received the fullest knowledge, any question of precedence might have renewed the trouble. Thus disaster would have been brought to the church after Christ’s departure. The strife for the highest place was the outworking of that same spirit which was the beginning of the great controversy in the worlds above, and which had brought Christ from heaven to die.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 435.
2. How was Jesus preparing His disciples for the difficult days that lay ahead? Did they understand the tests they would go through?
Mark 10:32-34 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.
Luke 18:34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
“Had they not just before proclaimed everywhere, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’? Had not Christ Himself promised that many should sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God? Had He not promised to all who had left aught for His sake a hundredfold in this life, and a part in His kingdom? And had He not given to the twelve the special promise of positions of high honor in His kingdom–to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel? Even now He had said that all things written in the prophets concerning Him should be fulfilled. And had not the prophets foretold the glory of the Messiah’s reign? In the light of these thoughts, His words in regard to betrayal, persecution, and death seemed vague and shadowy. Whatever difficulties might intervene, they believed that the kingdom was soon to be established.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 547, 548.
Request for a position
3. What did some disciples have in mind while the Lord was guiding them so they could face what was coming? What special request did the mother of two disciples present?
Matthew 20:20, 21 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
Mark 10:35-37 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. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
“John, the son of Zebedee, had been one of the first two disciples who had followed Jesus. He and his brother James had been among the first group who had left all for His service. Gladly they had forsaken home and friends that they might be with Him; they had walked and talked with Him; they had been with Him in the privacy of the home, and in the public assemblies. He had quieted their fears, delivered them from danger, relieved their sufferings, comforted their grief, and with patience and tenderness had taught them, till their hearts seemed linked with His, and in the ardor of their love they longed to be nearest to Him in His kingdom. At every possible opportunity, John took his place next the Saviour, and James longed to be honored with as close connection with Him. Their mother was a follower of Christ, and had ministered to Him freely of her substance. With a mother’s love and ambition for her sons, she coveted for them the most honored place in the new kingdom. For this she encouraged them to make request.
“Together the mother and her sons came to Jesus, asking that He would grant a petition on which their hearts were set.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 548.
4. What did Jesus clarify and teach when answering this question? What did the disciples have to face before receiving the privilege to sit on the throne of glory?
Matthew 20:22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
“Jesus bears tenderly with them, not rebuking their selfishness in seeking preference above their brethren. He reads their hearts. He knows the depth of their attachment to Him. Their love is not a mere human affection; though defiled by the earthliness of its human channel, it is an outflowing from the fountain of His own redeeming love. He will not rebuke, but deepen and purify. He said, ‘Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They recall His mysterious words, pointing to trial and suffering, yet answer confidently, ‘We are able.’ They would count it highest honor to prove their loyalty by sharing all that is to befall their Lord.
“ ‘Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with,’ He said; before Him a cross instead of a throne, two malefactors His companions at His right hand and His left. John and James were to share with their Master in suffering; the one, first of the brethren to perish with the sword; the other, longest of all to endure toil, and reproach, and persecution.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 548, 549.
5. What may we learn from the second part of His answer? Will a place and a throne in heaven be granted as the result of someone’s recommendation or favoritism?
Matthew 20:23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
“ ‘But to sit on My right hand, and on My left,’ He continued, ‘is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father.’ In the kingdom of God, position is not gained through favoritism. It is not earned, nor is it received through an arbitrary bestowal. It is the result of character. The crown and the throne are the tokens of a condition attained; they are the tokens of self-conquest through our Lord Jesus Christ.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 549.
Principles of the heavenly kingdom
6. On what divine principles is the kingdom of Christ founded? Therefore, what example are we to follow?
Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
“In the kingdoms of the world, position meant self-aggrandizement. The people were supposed to exist for the benefit of the ruling classes. Influence, wealth, education, were so many means of gaining control of the masses for the use of the leaders. The higher classes were to think, decide, enjoy, and rule; the lower were to obey and serve. Religion, like all things else, was a matter of authority. The people were expected to believe and practice as their superiors directed. The right of man as man, to think and act for himself, was wholly unrecognized.
“Christ was establishing a kingdom on different principles. He called men, not to authority, but to service, the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak. Power, position, talent, education, placed their possessor under the greater obligation to serve his fellows….
“… The principle on which Christ acted is to actuate the members of the church which is His body. The plan and ground of salvation is love. In the kingdom of Christ those are greatest who follow the example He has given, and act as shepherds of His flock.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 550.
7. What was revealed later to John regarding those who will have the privilege to sit on Christ’s throne?
Revelation 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
“Long afterward, when the disciple had been brought into sympathy with Christ through the fellowship of His sufferings, the Lord revealed to John what is the condition of nearness in His kingdom. ‘To him that overcometh,’ Christ said, ‘will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.’ ‘Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God,… and I will write upon him My new name.’ Revelation 3:21, 12. So Paul the apostle wrote, ‘I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.’ 2 Timothy 4:6-8.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 549.
“The principles and the very words of the Saviour’s teaching, in their divine beauty, dwelt in the memory of the beloved disciple. To his latest days the burden of John’s testimony to the churches was, ‘This is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.’ ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.’ 1 John 3:11, 16.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 551.