James and John are ambitious to get position and honor in Jesus’s Kingdom. In Mark 10:35-45, he confronts worldly ambition and shows them the path to true greatness.
1. The Posture of Ambition
Ambition is fundamentally self-seeking. James and John show that ambition is about 1) my will (Mark 10:35), 2) my glory (Mark 10:37), and 3) my ability (Mark 10:39).
2. Jesus Names Worldly Ambition
Jesus names worldly ambition’s goal for what it is: illegitimate domination of others (Mark 10:42). This is fundamentally destructive to God’s world. He gave us dominion over His creation (Gen. 1:28), but we are not to be dominated by anything else in creation—including others.
3. Jesus’s Zeal for God’s Kingdom
Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem to drink the cup of God’s wrath, his holy justice (see Isaiah 51:7; Mark 10:38). He was determined to be baptized, to die an atoning death for us (Romans 6:3-4; Mark 10:38). His desire was to be our ransom (Mark 10:45). Jesus wasn’t ambitious: he was zealous for the kingdom.
4. The Gospel Turns Ambition into Faith
When we look to Christ, he turns our ambition into faith. He shows us how to yield to the Father’s will (Mark 10:40). He teaches us to seek the Father’s glory, not our own (John 8:50; Mark 10:43-44). In the face of worldly ambition, Jesus preached the gospel. He pointed to the good news of himself as King and sacrifice for us.
Reflection & Application Questions
- Why were James and John ambitious? How are you tempted to ambition in your life?
- Ambition wants my will, my glory, and my ability. Where do you see these tendencies in yourself?
- We live in a world full of ambition and attempts at domination—technologically, politically, socially, and economically. But we have no right to dominate fellow image bearers of God. How are we complicit in this undermining of God’s created order? What does repentance look like? (See Psalm 19:12-14)
- What is Jesus’s answer to ambition? What is most amazing about this to you?
- How does your ambition need to be turned to faith? How can you pursue this? Pray for this?