“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’ And He said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to Him, ‘Grant us that we may sit, one on your right hand and the other on your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ So Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.’ And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. 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!’ Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.’ And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ The blind man said to Him, ‘Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.”
A Fleshly Wish of the Disciples?
In today’s Scripture passage we can find two kinds of wishes we can harbor before the presence of the Lord. The first is the wish of John and James, the sons of Zebedee. They asked the Lord to have one of them sit on the left hand side of the Lord and the other sit on the right side when the Kingdom of the Lord comes. Each one of them wanted to take one of the high positions and sit at the side of the Lord when He would take over the power in this world and become the King. It is such a puerile notion from a spiritual viewpoint because it is so far removed from the will of Jesus, but in a human perspective, they could think like this as the people of Israel, which was a tributary nation of the Roman Empire during that time.
As you know, the disciples of Jesus had witnessed the power of Jesus and thus thought that the Kingdom of the Lord would very soon manifest in this world. They had seen the Lord heal so many people who were dying of sicknesses. The desire to have the power of the Kingdom of the Lord might have been a natural thing since the disciples had seen such miracles of the Lord first hand.
But Jesus spoke to his disciples who had such an outrageous and fleshly thought, “You do not know what you ask.” The conversation between Jesus and His disciples went like this: “But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ So Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared’” (Mark 10:38-40).
Our Lord came to this world to save the entire humanity from sin, but to some degree the disciples had followed the Lord in order to receive the power of this world although they had also believed in the Lord spiritually. But the Lord asked such disciples, “Can you receive the baptism I receive?” In other words, the Lord asked them whether they could give themselves up as a martyr to save all the peoples of this world from sin. Then the disciples answered Him, “Yes, we can do this.” To this the Lord replied, “The thing you are asking will be done according to the Father’s will, not according your desires.” In other words, the Lord was saying that His Father would bless them if they could also die for the preaching of His gospel just like He would die to fulfill God’s work. Therefore, what the Lord was saying was that we would receive as a reward the blessing of sitting at the right or left hand of the Lord if we could be used for the work of God.
Furthermore, Jesus spoke conclusively like this to the request of James and John: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Lord spoke of the reason why He came to this world and said, “Shouldn’t you who follow me do the same?” To the request of these two disciples He said, “What position you take when you enter the Kingdom of Heaven is decided according to how God the Father has already prepared it. And those of you who want to be served must also become a person who serves the entire humanity spiritually in this world. And if there are some among you who are like this, then you must become a servant of all the people.” The rest of the disciples probably still had much discontentment towards James and John who had made such a request to the Lord.
At that time, the people were very interested in our Lord taking over and becoming the royal power in this world. That is understandable since the Lord had performed so many miracles; like the miracle of the five loaves and two fish in this country Israel that was so poor and did not have a true king. Thus, many people wanted to serve Jesus as the King; and the disciples who followed Jesus also had the same thoughts. The disciples of Jesus had also believed that He would become the King in this world some day. The disciples of Jesus thought and came to the conclusion that Jesus could definitely become a king in this world. They thought that it would not even be so difficult for the Lord to become the king of Israel because so many people in Israel followed Him and not just them.
Think about this for a moment. Who would be more popular and more powerful than Jesus when He performed the miracle of feeding five thousand people with just one small lunchbox by just blessing it once? Jesus was the most popular and famous figure in Israel. Therefore, all kinds of people including the sick, the hungry, and those seeking power gathered around the Lord. Therefore, we can find that not only those who believed and wanted to serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit but also those who were seeking their own greed followed the Lord at that time.
In this scenario the disciples of Jesus, especially James and John, wanted to receive such power through the Lord’s fame. Therefore they followed the Lord and helped His work. It is a sad thing, but there also are many people like James and John here in the Church today. There are some people who follow the righteousness of the Lord in order to become prosperous in the flesh and also to live well with security. You are no different from James and John if you just want to become prosperous in the flesh after believing in the righteousness of the Lord. Dear fellow believers, we must have this pure faith and loyal heart toward the righteousness of the Lord. It is not the upright faith for you to serve the Lord with the presumption that you will become wealthy in the flesh, if you believe and serve the righteousness of Jesus. If this is so, then you are someone who commits the sin of serving an idol and using the Lord in order to fulfill your own fleshly desires.
Jesus came to this world in order to give Himself up to save us from all our sins. We must also become the people who throw away all the honor of this world like the Lord, and only preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to everyone with a pure heart. And we must save them from the sins of this world. Just as the Lord did not seek fame and glory in this world, we must also desire to preach this gospel with such pure faith so that many souls may receive the remission of their sins. We must remove our filthy residues of flesh that seek after power and the material things of this world. We also have many residues of filth now just as there were many residues of flesh in the hearts of the disciples who just wanted to make Jesus their king and attain power owing to Him at that time.
Dear fellow believers, let’s face it. Do our hearts desire so much to become prosperous fleshly instead of desiring the prosperity of the spiritual work? Other people might not know this, but you know this fact well. Even amongst the ministers in God’s Church, there are some who want fleshly things first, and some who want spiritual things first. But we must grow up as the people who believe and follow the righteousness of God in order for our life of faith to go on the upright path. We must become the people who have this spiritual hope the Lord wants. We have both minds: the spiritual mind and the carnal mind. Therefore, we must first be spiritually minded. We are like the two disciples of Jesus mentioned here if our hearts do not first become spiritual.
Someone Who Has a Spiritual Wish
In the Gospel of Mark 10:46, there appears someone who has quite different wish than the wish of those two disciples. It is recorded, “Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging.” What did the blind man Bartimaeus want from the Lord? He really wanted his sight restored. He wanted to have his eyes opened so that he could see Jesus and also the beautiful world God had created.
It might sound strange but beggars are actually very comfortable at least in their hearts. Beggars do not have to worry about being robbed or losing everything from a disaster for they do not have anything. I want to share this story with you.
A certain father and a son lived under a bridge as beggars and one day a fire broke out in that area. The people who suffered from this fire were crying and weeping in great tumult, but the indigent father told his son, “Son, you are blessed because you have such a great father. We do not have anything to be burned and we do not have to worry about losing wealth because you have such a great father. We have nothing to lose even if a thief comes. They are crying and weeping, but you do not have to cry because you have a great father.” I don’t know what his son thought while hearing these words of his father, but anyway this story shows us the comfortable hearts of beggars who do not have anything they should keep. Someone who does not possess anything does not have worries or any anxieties. It is because they do not desire anything more than three meals a day.
This Bartimaeus, a beggar whose heart at least was comfortable even though he was blind, wanted to have his eyes opened by the Lord. From a fleshly point of view, this might seem to be the same as the wishes of the disciples. However, the Lord gives us a very important message through this event. And this is that the wish of the people who have been born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit does not lie in the riches and glory of this world. They want to open up the eyes of those who are spiritually blind. They are truly concerned about, “How can I make the eyes of the blind see?” In other words, those who believe in the righteousness of God must have such faith that says, “How can I preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to people who have not been washed from their sins yet, so that they can receive the cleansing of their sins and enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” Do you understand? We have both a carnal wish and a spiritual wish, but we must at least think, “How can I make the blind see?” This should be the basis of our hearts.
We are the spiritually sick if we do not have such a heart. We will degenerate into the useless ones who have lost our positions and goals as the righteous who have believed in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Our Lord opened the eyes of the blind and said, “Your faith has made you well.” Likewise, we must do the work of opening the eyes of people like blind Bartimaeus, if we have been born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We must do this spiritually. The righteous must have this hope of opening the eyes of people who have not been born again yet.
The disciples argued amongst themselves who was the greater and who was the lesser, but this was truly vain. People who just want to boast of their little merits are not the born-again who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. From a spiritual view point they just mumble with their mouths, but their behavior displays something else. They are like a fig tree that is just full of leaves without any fruit. Their life of faith does not have any substance at all. We who believe in the righteousness of the Lord do not have to have such great ability to boast of in a worldly sense. We can preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to other people if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, that is, if we have this faith that seeks to open up the eyes of the blind. Such people become the precious servants of God who live for the gospel of the water and the Spirit throughout their entire life. Such people can do spiritual work because they have this spiritual heart. If we at least have this spiritual wish like a mustard seed in our hearts, we can do great things with just this heart alone. This small heart can lead many people onto the righteous path and make them receive the remission of their sins. Hence, you and I must become the people who follow after the righteousness of the Lord with a spiritual heart instead of boasting about our fleshly merits.
Dear fellow believers, I want you and me to have this little wish in the heart which is as small as a mustard seed and to open up the eyes of the blind. Do you know how small a mustard seed is? It is so small that one would not even be able to see it if it is placed in the palm of your hand. Also this seed is blown away by our breathing when we try to look at it closely. A mustard seed is so very tiny and light. Therefore the Lord illustrated our genuine but little faith in the Scriptures with a mustard seed amongst so many seeds. Those who believe in the righteousness of the Lord do not need any great power or wealth of this world. They can preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit throughout their entire lives with just this small faith in the grace God. We have this one wish as small as a mustard seed in our heart, and this wish makes us preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to those around us and save them from the sins of this world, those who are bound for hell. If 50% of a human heart is fleshly and the other 50% is spiritual, we become the true witnesses of the gospel and also become the disciples of the Lord because we have this 50% spiritual heart in us who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. On the other hand, those who do not have the heart of believing in the Lord’s perfect gospel of the water and the Spirit do not have a desire in their hearts to live spiritually.
Dear fellow believers, I want you to have such a spiritual heart. God wants us to have this heart of living for the righteousness of God. We must have a spiritual wish in our hearts. We must have a wish which desires to have souls receive the remission of their sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Even if you do not have such great faith and ability, you can still do spiritual works if you just believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and follow the Lord spiritually. You come to serve the gospel of the righteousness of the Lord instead of seeking after fleshly desires although we cannot of course, throw them away completely.
We can follow after spiritual things by just having a little bit of spiritual wishes. And in the end this 50% spirituality in our hearts will come to eat up the other fleshly 50% part there. When a mustard seed is planted, life begins from this little seed. At first, it comes up very weak and small like an annual plant, but it soon grows up to be a very big tree as time passes, and it becomes a blessed space where all kinds of birds of the air can rest in and people rest under its shade. Like this, we can eventually overcome all vain desires and the hearts of flesh and be transformed into spiritual people when we have this faith as small as a mustard seed like this. Hence, we must not disrespect the heart that desires to serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit, which is a spiritual heart like ours. I want you to know that this little wish makes you overcome all fleshly desires. In the hearts of us the born-again who have received the remission of sins, is faith which believes in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and this faith enables us to grow and be transformed spiritually. However, the problem is that fleshly people among the born-again just bury this spiritual heart under the ground and press it down with a heavy rock preventing it to sprout. You should remember that even such a small wish of faith that is with the Lord will eventually blossom into spiritually beautiful flowers. Therefore, we must at least have such a heart that seeks to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to the other people.
What Is the Purpose of a Righteous Person Living in This World?
Does a righteous person live to chase after material wealth and power of this world and enjoy its riches and glory? This should not happen. Such greed only brings calamity to a believer. I will tell you a story from the Scriptures in order to help you understand this lesson well.
Our Lord brought down the city of Jericho through Joshua. Joshua told the people to go around Jericho once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day according to God’s will. The walls of Jericho began to collapse from the inside out when the people screamed and the priests blew their horns after going around the city the last seven times. After the city had collapsed they first saved the family of Rahab the harlot, Joshua said, “Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates” (Joshua 6:26). This means that when someone who has received his salvation through the Lord lives for the world that God has personally destroyed, God eventually will destroy him. It does not just end in words, but it actually happens. Actually, when King Ahab ruled over Israel this Word was indeed fulfilled, “In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun” (1 King 16:34).
Think about this. Haven’t we made so many mistakes while living in this world even though we have thought so many times not to make any mistakes? We do not just act immediately as we feel, but we instead put something into action after thinking about it very carefully and deciding what is right. It is because we, the born-again, cannot receive the Lord’s perfect blessing if we build the foundation and the house towards this world and follow the material things and the power of the world. And it’s because we become destroyed spiritually. It would not matter even though we lived like that if everything could become prosperous by following the world. However, a person who believes in the gospel of the water and the Spirit will eventually become useless in this world if he does not at least live for the gospel. That is why the Lord says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13). This is the very truth the Lord said to the born again.
Just as all the money one owns would be useless if one should lost one’s life, likewise, your entire life will be in vain if you cannot receive the blessing of serving the spiritual gospel no matter how much worldly wealth you have accumulated. Dear fellow believers, we have a great cause to lead a spiritual life. We definitely have reason why we must live like this although it is hard and difficult. Thus, we must have a small wish of the heart, an upright wish of faith, in order to live such a spiritual life. That is, we must have the wish to make other souls receive the remission of sins by preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit to them, the wish to open the eyes of the blind. This is the true wish that the Lord desires from us.
In some Christian sects, the members are prone to deify their leader so that this leader of that sect who has money and honor would appear more handsome even if he is not. But would someone who looks luxurious and has lots of money become a spiritual person? Regardless of who he is a person who does not believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit cannot be spiritual. Do you think anyone is able to live spiritually even without believing in this gospel of the water and the Spirit? This is also a wrong notion. You do not even need to look at others. Just look at yourselves. We can at least live serving the Lord according to the desires of the Holy Spirit because we have received the Holy Spirit who has come by the remission of sins we received. Besides this, everything else is of the flesh. People boast of themselves and pretend to be upright as if they have much righteousness, but humans really do not have any genuine righteousness. We must not be deceived by our thoughts. Because we have in our hearts the gospel of the water and the Spirit that opened the eyes of the blind, we must just live our entire life by this faith.
We are prone to boast of our own fleshly righteousness first after receiving the remission of our sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Even while doing this, we think that we actually have much righteousness. However, as time passes, examine and see if your righteousness could be so perfect until you die.
Job who appears in the Old Testament also thought that he was a great person at the beginning. However, when he started facing severe tribulations, he cursed the day he was born and complained against God, saying, “Why did my mother conceive me and gave birth to me? Why did she receive me with her two knees? Why did the sun shine on that day? I would have died in comfort because it would have been too dark if the light had not shone on that day.” Then God said to Job, “Job, were you there when I created the universe and all things in it? Were you there when I was putting up the Big Dipper, a constellation up in the sky? Do you know why I made it like this? Do you know the reason why the universe and all the things in it move so wondrously with four seasons? And do you know the reason why this universe that I have created revolves around so orderly like a well toothed cogwheel working with each other? Why do you complain against me and complain about being born to this world? You should acknowledge your shortcomings and your fleshly weaknesses. Why are you instead holding a grievance against me and holding a grievance against your parents?”
Job hears this Word of God and eventually breaks down his own righteousness. He acknowledges, “God, I really did not know. I am truly a treacherous person.” Only then did God perfectly accept Job who broke down his righteousness like this. As such, we humans are beings who cannot even reach the feet of God no matter how great we are.
I think about myself and you, the saints and the servants of God. No matter how diligently we do the righteous works until the moment of our death, we do not have anything to boast about besides faith of believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. I do not know how you have lived until now, but when we think about it, the days we will live in the future are all in vain on our own. We are insufficient beings before the presence of God. Hence, we live praising the righteousness of the Lord even in the midst of our shortcomings. Therefore, we must spread the gospel of the Lord, which is the salvation of the Lord. We must just boast of the perfection of the Lord rather than boasting of our own greatness, which is vain. We can believe in the perfect gospel of the Lord and preach it because we really are lacking. A person who thinks that he is great in his own thoughts can never preach this gospel of the water and the Spirit. We have the faith that people can receive salvation because they are also weak just as we have received salvation after knowing our own shortcomings. We thus can preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Otherwise, we would not even need to receive salvation if we were all perfect on our own.
Dear fellow believers, we are all insufficient always. We have become the workers of the Lord because we are lacking. We dwell in God’s Church and serve the gospel because we are weak. Our Lord has also entrusted to us the work of preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit because we are insufficient beings. The Lord wants to witness the gospel to the blind, the lame, the paralyzed, the poor, the rich, and the powerful, and bestow the grace of God upon them all. The Lord made us receive the grace of salvation by giving us the gospel of the water and the Spirit and made us become the perfect children of the Lord because we are insufficient beings. We cannot serve the righteousness of the Lord if we really are perfect and great in the flesh. We would not even need faith, prayer, and even God, if we were perfect. We pray to the Lord because we are lacking and do His work while believing in the Lord. Do you acknowledge that you are also an insufficient person? I want you to believe that God holds onto us and makes us do his work because we are weak and lacking.
The Kingdom of God awaits us who believe in the righteousness of God. We cannot see it with our naked eyes, but we can see with our spiritual eyes that this Kingdom will definitely come. Jesus Christ who is God has prepared the Kingdom of Heaven for us and is waiting for us to come into that place without fail. And He wants us to open the spiritual eyes of many other people and witness the gospel of the water and the Spirit to them while living in this world. Dear fellow believers, this world and everything in it which is apparent to our fleshly eyes, is not all that it is. There is clearly the Kingdom of God to those who believe in the righteousness of God. Even the Millennial Kingdom that will be unfolded in this land can never be the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is a place where we will enjoy the blessed life for eternity. When people receive the judgment from the Lord He who sits on the white throne, we the righteous who have been born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit will go to this Kingdom of God; and sinners who have not been born again because of their unbelief will go to the eternal burning fire.
The Lord said that all those who have not received the remission of their sins will be in Hades. The Lord said in the Scriptures that He puts them in the bottomless pit and brings them out in the end times and judges them and then casts them into the eternal fire. I absolutely do not want any of you gathered here to go to that place called Hades. We are the people who shall enter the Kingdom of God.
What must we do in order to enter the Kingdom of God? We must also build God’s Kingdom while living in this world just as our Lord came to this world and built the Kingdom of God. We the believers belong to the Kingdom of Heaven, but we must build the Kingdom of God in this world now. We are now gathering people together who shall go and live in the Kingdom of God. This constitutes the preaching of the gospel. We must prepare the Kingdom of God for the people and become the workers who build the Kingdom of God in this world. All the saints must be faithful to the work they have been entrusted with. This is the work God has entrusted to us the believers.
You and I have the Kingdom of God. This world is not all there is to it. I give thanks to God who made us the weak as the workers of the Kingdom of God. I give thanks to the Lord who gave us this spiritual desire to open up spiritual eyes of the blind even though our faith is as small as a mustard seed. I want you to hold onto this wish and fulfill this spiritual wish gracefully and become the saints and the servants of God who faithfully fulfill the will of God in His presence.