Somebody's Something

Bible Book: Mark  10 : 35-45
Subject: Humility; Servant; Pride; Selfishness

Somebody's Something

Dr. J. Mike Minnix

Everybody wants to be somebody. For example, there was a man who bore a marked resemblance to a famous actor and he was sitting in a New York restaurant one day when he was approached by a would-be fan who asked, “Hey, aren’t you somebody?” The actor look-alike answered, “No, I look like somebody, but I am just a nobody.”

We live in a selfish age, but then it has always been like that among humans. I read about two boys were walking down a street together. One boy was eating an apple and the other boy, the one without the apple, said, "If I had an apple, I would give it to you." The boy with the apple said, "Then what are you griping about - I have it, don't I?"

Speaking of selfishness and self-love, I read some time ago about a man who was last seen walking down Lover's Lane holding his own hand. That what's I call egotisical.

In an attempt to feel like somebody, we often lose sight of who God has designed us to be. Furthermore, we miss the full reality of what it means to be all Christ desires us to be toward others in this world.

Now, it is true that we all feel like a no-body sometimes, and some of us feel like a no-body all the time. Some time ago a new employee at a Wal-Mart had an unusual experience. The young man had just been at work three days and was the low man in the pecking order at the store. He was standing with a broom in his hand near the entrance when an irate customer came into the store. The customer had made a purchase that had not turned out satisfactorily and was coming back with a complaint. “Young man,” the customer growled, “I want to speak to someone with a little authority around here.” The new clerk looked around to the left and right and, leaning on his broom said “Well, sir, you might as well talk to me, I guess I got just about as little authority as anybody in this whole place.”

Of course, some people in an attempt to be something on their own, have to be taken down a notch or two. A woman was hired to work at Macy's Department Store. The manager gave her a broom and said, "You can start by sweeping up around the entrance to the store. The young lady put both hands on her hips and exclaimed, "Sweep the floor. Why, I have a college education!" The manager said, "Oh, I forgot about you being a college graduate. Here, hand the broom to me and I'll teach you how to hold and how to use it!"

The desire to be somebody is not all bad. God never states that we should be absent of ambition. In fact, the Bible tells us to do everything our hands find to do with all our heart, and to do it as unto the Lord. The problem lies in the fact that most ambition is self-centered and leads to many sorrows for us and for those around us. In our selfishness we doom ourselves and hurt other people. In our self-satisfying pursuit, we miss God’s best for us, and for others as well.

Look at our scripture for today and note the moment when two disciples revealed the nature of their hearts before the Lord:

John 10:35-45 ...

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 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?” 39They 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; 40 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.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 42 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. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (NKJV)

Note some important issues related to selfish revealed in this passage.

I. The Request

This incident begins with a request by two of the disciples of Jesus. Note that they asked Jesus to do for them what they wanted Him to do. That is the problem with many of our prayers – we are praying for our will, our well-being, and not for God’s will or His glory.

So what exactly did the two disciples of Jesus desire? They wanted to sit on the right and left hand of Jesus when He came into His Kingdom. In other words, they wanted the most powerful, important, prominent, and notable seats with Jesus when the Lord establishes His eternal kingdom. Their request almost makes us blush with embarrassment for them. How arrogant and pretentious their request really was, and how sad that they did not realize how selfish it sounded. What was wrong with their request?

A. A Request for Position

We read in Luke 13:30 ...

“And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”

Had the disciples not heard Jesus teach on the issue of pride and arrogance? It is interesting that mostpeople tend to hear what they want to hear and miss that which they need to hear.

I have a habit of sharing something humorous in a sermon, and it is something I’ve been doing for the fifty-five years I’ve been preaching. I don’t tell some humorous thing to be funny, but always to fit the point being made in the message. One Sunday I told a truly hilarious thing to the congregation. Later that week, I was playing golf with a couple of my church members. One of the guys said, “Preacher, I’ve got a story to tell you that you can use in a sermon." He proceeded to tell me the very thing I had told in church the previous Sunday. I said, “Brother, I’m the one who told that story this past Sunday." He said, “Well I’ll be, I knew I’d heard it somewhere in the last few days but couldn’t remember where.”

Not only do we forget what we heard in most sermons, when we do remember we don't even know who said it. Seriously, the disciples of Jesus were simply not paying attention to the Lord and this continues to be a troubling problem for believers today. You can begin to believe that the teaching and preaching being done in your church is just a thing we do as a habit ever week. No, no, a thousand times no! We must pay close attention to all that the Lord is teaching us in His Word or we will make fools of ourselves just as those disciples did. No wonder Jesus said more than once, “Let Him that has ears, hear!” Jesus may ask of us, as He did the people in Mark 8:18, “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?”

On a couple of occasions I've had a church member give me a copy of notes taking during my preachering over a number of years. The notes amazed me. The things they wrote down might not have been the things I thought were most imporant in a given sermon, but it is what they needed. They were listening, paying attention, and seeking a word from God. In so doing, they had gotten just what they needed and had written those thoughts down so they were not forgotten, I wish more believers were doing that.

B. A Request for Power

Not only did the disciples want a great position, they were asking for great power. In the days of kings, those who sat on the right and left hand of a king had incredible power. The king often delegated authority to those whom he trusted and they acted on His behalf. In a way, it is as if the disciples are asking to be in a position as a surrogate Christ.

Sadly, many people desire to be "god" of their own lives. They want authority that does not belong to them. Many times, those who desire authority the most are those who feel the weakest. They need the position and power they desire to make themselves feel like “somebody” in this world. You will never be a greater "somebody" than when you are simply in submission to God's will in your life - whatever that may be.

C. A Request for Pleasure

In addition, we can say that the disciples were asking for a place of pleasure. They wanted the comfortable seats, the place where one could ask for whatever he desired and get it. Note what Jesus said to them in our text today, as recorded in verses 42 and 43 ...

42 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. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.

The disciples were way out of line in their request. The words of Jesus regarding becoming slaves must have stunned the two errant disciples.

When you ask Jesus for something, what is it you request? Is it for your power, pleasure, or to get you noticed? Or, do you ask for the strength to be faithful and the ability to be used to bring others to Jesus? Do you ask the Lord to grant you more things so you can share them with His church and the hurting world, or do you ask for them to keep up with your neighbors? These are not inconsequential questions. The answers reveals the kind of disciples we are.

Now notice something beyond the request the disciples made - we will see what Jesus told them.

II. The Revelation

Let’s look at what Jesus said in a little more depth. You will note that Jesus revealed the foolish nature of their request. The disciples making the request had a disease we might call Ignoblitivity. I know that is not an actual word – I just made up it up. One can do that, you know. In fact, a lot of new words show up in dictionaries every year. Well, maybe this one ought to be there for Christians to consider. Let me explain the word to you. Ig-no-bli-tivity is a disease of the soul involving three serious maladies.

A. Ignorance - "igno"

First, they were Ignorant, for they did not even know what they were asking. That is why Jesus asked if they were willing to drink the cup that He would drink. To be close to Him was to suffer as He suffered. They had no idea of the nature of their request. But then, don’t we all offer up prayers like that at times. Sometimes the best answer to prays I’ve prayed has been, “NO!” God kept me from many sorrows but not giving me what I was asking for. Isn’t that true in your life as well? I'm glad God knows what is best for me and answers according to His knowledge and will and not according to mine.

B. Blindness - "bli"

Not only were the disciples ignorant, but they were blind. Thus, we have “Igno” for Ignorance and “Bli” for Blindness.

The disciples could not see the hurt, suffering, pain and difficulty that others were facing. Look back at the passage preceding the one before us and note that just prior to their request the Savior had told them that He was going to die. Did they care? Did they voice any concern for Him? No! They only thought of what they wanted for themselves. Only a blinded person can look out at a lost world, a hungry world, a terrorist ridden world, a suffering world, and pray only for personal position, power and pleasure.

C. Insensitivity - "tivity"

Then, they were very insensitive. Thus, we have “Igno” for Ignorance; “Bli” for Blindness; and, “Tivity” for Insensitivity. Ignoblitivity equals the disease of caring only for yourself and what will promote your own best interest.

The request of the disciples revealed their selfish hearts. In fact, only God knows our hearts and only He can reveal to us the selfishness that often lives there.

Now, notice one more thing.

III. The Reversal

Jesus sought to share with all His disciples and with us that the Kingdom of God is reversed from the kingdoms of this world. Everything in God’s kingdom is turned upside down when to the world's ambitions and desires.

A. The Way Up Is Down

A man had a dream in which the Lord told Him that he was to receive the best of blessings. Just then, there before the man, was a set of shelves that stretched very high above him. In his dream, the man began immediately to search for a ladder in order to reach the blessings above. Finally, he found a tall ladder and after much arduous climbing came to the top shelf but nothing was there. He climbed down the ladder and complained to the Lord that the blessings were missing. The Lord said, “My son, you will find them on the lower shelf.” Then, the man fell down on his knees and there he saw gold, silver, and precious jewels of every kind. He could only reach them by getting down on his knees.

Dear friend, the best of God’s blessings are found when we get down on our knees not when we try to lord over others.

B. The Way Out Is In

Most of us want to find a way out of our troubles and out of our responsibilities. The truth is, the way out is in. We must throw ourselves into the work in order to find the peace we most desire. True meaning and purpose is found in giving, not just receiving. True joy is discovered in serving not being served.

There was a man who wanted to be president of the United States. He was brilliant, popular and was an attorney with a lot of connections. His name was Daniel Webster and he ran for the nomination of his party and did well but fell short of the nomination. The man who was nominated was William Henry Harrison who went on to be elected president. Harrison realized that Webster was smart and popular so he offered him the second spot on the ticket. He would make Webster his vice-president. Webster said no to the offer. He was filled with pride and said he had no intention of being second on the ticket. Harrison became president and shortly afterward died while in office. The Vice-president became president. The man who would be president had missed an opportunity, but never mind - he would try again.

This time Webster ran for the office of president but again he fell short of the mark. This time the nomination went to Zachary Taylor, who was elected president. Taylor also offered the vice-presidency to Webster. Once again Webster rejected the offer with the remark that he had no intention of being buried before he was actually dead. Remarkably, Taylor also died while in office. The vice-president became president. The man who would be president missed a second opportunity. The man who would be president was Daniel Webster and if you know anything about history you know that he was never elected president at all.

Two times Webster missed his chance because he was two proud to accept second place. He wanted to be somebody rather than serve somebody and as far as the presidency goes, he was a nobody.


As London was being bombed in WWII, a little boy was seen wandering down a street covered in dust and dirt. It was apparent that a bomb had landed somewhere near the lad. A civil servant ran to the boy and said, “Son, let me get you to your mom and dad,” but the boy replied that they had been killed by the bombs. How about grandparents, the civil servant wanted to know. The lad said, “I don’t have any.” The civil servant said, “Well, there must be somebody.” The little boy looked up with tears streaming down his face and said, “No, sir. I guess I’m just nobody's nothing.”

My dear friend, Jesus died to prove that you are loved. You don’t need the latest car, or biggest house to prove who you are. What you need is a real, honest experience of life from Jesus. He died for your sins, rose to insure that you have everlasting life, and you can come to Him today.

Let me say a word to Christians, especially in our church life. The greatest position in this church is in found in being humble servant of our Lord. Oh, that we might rededicate ourselves to avoiding a passion for titles, positions, and who gets credit for whatever success takes place. Let us rededicate ourselves to serving Jesus and others as simple, dedicated, born-again believers.