Gospel Clarity - Mark 10:32-52

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from the evening service on 22nd May 2022.

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Mark 10 v 32-52 “Gospel Clarity”

Intro: (Slide 1) In staff worship on Monday we reflected on this very helpful comment together; “Before you can walk in the truth cleanly, you need to know the truth clearly.” (Slide 2) We want to be a Network of local churches where the pattern for all the believers is to be people walking cleanly in the truth (100 times a better way to walk). Therefore it is absolutely vital that the full gospel is faithfully and clearly proclaimed, taught and held out so that our lives are filled with worship of God rather than the mess of this world. Whilst I don’t think that we as a CC Network are in imminent danger of abandoning the gospel anytime soon, I do think it is evident from many of our messy lives that we very quickly get fuzzy on parts of the gospel that are more challenging – the parts that speak of real discipleship.

(Slide 3) Praise God for Summer time but cast your minds back a few months to those horrible mornings when you had to scrape the ice off your windscreen before shivering in your car on the way to work. How dangerous it is to just clean part of the windscreen and then negotiate the road ahead. (Slide 4) A partial view can quickly become a disastrous view (Slide 5). Get those wipers going and make sure the view ahead is a clear one or it certainly won’t be a clean one! In Mark 10 (Slide 6), Jesus, for the third time, tries to make clear to his disciples what following him really means. And my prayer is that this passage will act like gospel windscreen wipers for us, giving us (or reminding us of) a really clear understanding of discipleship and what that will mean for us.

             1) Passive Christianity is NOT true discipleship

So let’s begin trying to clear any partial view of Christianity with the help of Mark 10 v32-52. And let me lead with this challenging statement; “Passive Christianity is not true discipleship and so it isn’t Christianity at all” (Slide 7).  Many, many explanations of the gospel from people in pews and even people in pulpits around our nation would lead you to imagine that lots of Mark chapter 10 has been redacted or crossed out of our bibles (Slide 8). Let me read what is left;


Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”…

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight.

Those verses that I have just read contain many important and vital truths;

  • Identity of Jesus: The Son of Man (prophetic term pointing to his rule and glory), Jesus of Nazareth (where he lived and grew up), Son of David (pointing to all the promises of a King to reign on David’s throne forever), Rabbi (submissive attitude to his teaching). You have to know who Jesus really is to be a Christian.


  • Work of Jesus: He is going to go to Jerusalem, be put to death by the leaders and then rise again 3 days later. The cross of Calvary and the empty tomb are absolutely vital elements of the gospel.


  • Mercy of Jesus: What do you want me to do for you Bartimaeus? As he deals with Bartimaeus we see that his heart is indeed full of the mercy that Bartimaeus pleads for. We would have no hope but for the mercy of God.


  • Efficacy of Jesus: When Jesus wants to heal someone that person is indeed healed, when Jesus promises to rise again the tomb is indeed empty. If Jesus’ promises weren’t kept we would have no hope.  

What makes a person a Christian? They have to know who Jesus is, they have to believe that he died and rose again, they have to recognise their need for God’s mercy, they must believe that what Jesus has done is powerful enough to deal with sin and death. Is that it? Is that the whole gospel?

No, it is not. It is not the whole gospel that Jesus taught. Of course we are utterly passive when it comes to the work of Jesus to deal with our sin on the cross – we could not contribute to Christ’s work of atonement on our behalf at all. But that is not the whole gospel because that would be a gospel that leaves people completely passive forever. That would be a gospel where this passage ended with Jesus saying to Bartimaeus ““Go, your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight” and Bartimaeus heading off to enjoy life without Jesus. That would be a gospel that would allow us to know great truths about Jesus without those great truths having any impact on the rest of our lives at all.

             2) Discipleship means FOLLOWING Jesus

(Slide 9) But this passage begins and ends with people FOLLOWING Jesus on a very hard road. So lets wash some more of the windscreen and get a clearer view of what real discipleship is (Slide10). Discipleship means following Jesus. Verse 32 at the start and the end of 52 really do matter.

V32: “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.”

We have noticed these reactions of astonishment, fear and faith all the way through Mark’s gospel. “They were on their way up to Jerusalem” is a very loaded statement – of course those following were afraid, and of course the disciples were astonished because Jerusalem was the most dangerous place Jesus could possibly go.

It would all be so different if Jesus would just do what the disciples expected and desired and muster an army to march into Jerusalem to kick the Romans out. But instead of an army to put Jesus on a throne, the sight in verse 32 is pitiful (Slide11), David Garland describes this walk to Jerusalem as a “fearful trek of the befuddled, bedraggled little band of disciples and followers.” Not a very inspiring sight at all and yet, despite astonishment and despite fear, as Jesus leads the way to danger and death, the disciples do what disciples by definition must do – they follow their leader.


This is exactly what Jesus’ identity, work, mercy and power are supposed to do to people then and now – they should make people into followers. That is exactly what these things did for Bartimaeus; verse 52 doesn’t end with him going but coming. “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” Along the road to Jerusalem. Along the road to danger and suffering and death. Bartimaeus has recognised Jesus (Son of David), has pleaded for Jesus’ mercy, has recognised his power and so he follows. Yes, he was helpless to do anything about his own state at the start, but Bartimaeus is not passive when this passage ends. We don’t even read of him going back for his cloak – he threw if off, jumped to his feet, came to Jesus and now follows him along the road of discipleship.

We have got to be like this man. Knowing things about Jesus, even knowing gospel things about Jesus, is not the same thing as these things causing us to follow Jesus along the road.  

             3) Discipleship means DYING to self

And as we wash the rest of the dirt off our windscreen, we get to see where that road leads us to (Slide 12), Discipleship means dying to self.  Verses 35 to 45 are absolutely vital verses for us not to somehow delete from our bibles (Slide 13). If you want your life to really be about yourself then you can’t be a disciple of Jesus. There aren’t 2 levels of Christians that exist. There are simply followers of Jesus and everybody else (eternally lost people). We come to a question that Jesus asks that will show us whether we just like to believe some things about him or whether we are prepared to follow him. “What do you want me to do for you?” How would you answer that question right now – what do you want Jesus to do for you?


(Slide 14) James and John give an answer in v37 that shows there is still so much to be done to clear their view of Jesus’ call on their lives; ‘We want power and glory – one of us on your right and the other on your left.’ Now before you get too hard on James and John, remember that they are on the road with Jesus, they are prepared to walk with him to Jerusalem (despite fear and astonishment). But will they stay on that road when they realise what it really means for them? Their answer shows that their lives are still mainly about themselves and not about Jesus. And the rest of the disciples respond in a way that shows they are in exactly the same place (indignant with James and John) – self is still number 1 in their priority list and Jesus just happens to be path to getting what they want.

Jesus quickly dismisses their question of glory – the Father will sort all that out, Jesus spends his time setting before the disciples 3 stark realities of real discipleship;

(Slide 15) Following Jesus means there is a cup to be drunk:

Jesus walked the road the Father had for him until the very end. He drunk the cup of God’s wrath and anger against sin to the final bitter mouthful. He drunk that cup so that his followers from then until now, from now until he comes again, his followers can indeed be brought to eternal glory. He tells James and John that they are going to drink a cup as well. It is a cup of suffering and it shows us that if we are to follow him then we too have this same cup to drink. We are to persevere, we are to endure as Christians living obediently in a hostile world, we are to say again and again, “not my will but yours be done.” This will mean suffering small things like the scorn of friends or big things like the rejection of family but that is real discipleship. (Slide 16)

Following Jesus means there is a baptism to be endured:

Jesus is talking here about the baptism of death itself. Jesus was going to the cross where the one who gave life would give his life up for others. James and John would end up going the same way. And we are to die to self. We are to die to seeking our own good in this life, whether that is in what we do with our money (is your spending mostly about you, your security, your comfort), what we do with our time and energy (there isn’t any good biblical basis for ‘me-time’); in every area of our lives disciples of Jesus are to forget about self and live for God (outward).   

(Slide 17) Following Jesus means there is a life to be spent:

V45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As Rich said in his sermon a few weeks ago – if you want to be great in the Kingdom of God you must be a great servant of God and his people. Being a slave or a servant is a life of tiredness and humility and effort. There are many names for Jesus in this passage but “Son of Man” would get the disciples thinking of glory and honour and might. Even the “Son of Man” didn’t come to be served but to serve. If we say we are disciples of Jesus and yet our lives are not filled with service then we really are fooling ourselves. Discipleship means dying to self. In Riverside there are some people right now who because of age can’t move around as freely any more but they work so hard in prayer for the church family because they get this – their lives are to be filled with service and they will serve in whatever way they possibly can.  


(Slide 18) “What do you want me to do for you?” James and John’s answer was glory. Wrong answer. Bartimaeus’ answer was mercy. Right answer. What is your answer to that question? Has it been the wrong answer until tonight? Have you been a ‘passive Christian’ until this moment? Someone who likes to believe things about Jesus but whose life has never really been changed by Jesus? That is a terribly dangerous place to be – there aren’t classes of Christians, there are followers of Jesus and then there is everyone else (eternally lost).

But here is the brilliant thing to notice - at the end of this passage, all 3 of these men are on the road with Jesus. Because of God’s great mercy, people who have got it so wrong up to now are invited to come and follow Jesus on the road. It is a road filled with difficulty and suffering and dying to our self, but it is also a road filled with the mercy of Jesus, and do you know where it does indeed lead to certainly and eventually? It leads to glory, it leads us home to God.  



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