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Crux of the Cross Week 1: Substitution – Mark 10:45

Mary Ellen Ermis March 3, 2024 sermons, cityrise, houston, Mark, Roger Patterson, The Crux of the Cross, West U Baptist,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Senior Pastor Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday, March 3, 2024 at our West U Baptist campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.

Good morning…Open to Mark 10:45. App Notes…etc.

Who in here shops for groceries? Who in here shops for groceries – FROM HOME? Isn’t this a gamechanger? There are times when I actually enjoy physically shopping for groceries, and then there are times when going to HEB.com and letting their team do all the work is very helpful! But there is a catch. Sometimes, you place an order and they are “out” of the item. What happens when they are “out?” They put a SUBSTITUTE item in your order, and you know this ahead of time and authorize them to do it. Some are good, and some are terrible substitutes.

Today we start a new series that will take us through Easter Sunday – March 31. I want to ask you to invite people who might not have a church they regularly attend to come with you to Easter. We’ll have 3 services, and it will be a great day. People are more open at Easter /Christmas – so go for it. Invite. In this new series we’re looking at how Jesus came to serve us – the crux of the cross, the heart, the core, the nitty-gritty of the cross. Today we’re talking about How Jesus Served us as our SUBSTITUTE.

Look with me at Mark 10:45. Mark writes in his biography of the Life of Jesus about a distinct experience Jesus had with his friends as he neared the end of his life. Jesus tells them,

Mark 10:45

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Did you hear Jesus? Pulls his disciples close, in a poignant moment says, I came to give my life as a ransom.

One of the heartbeats of the cross, one of the core purposes of the cross, is Jesus as our substitute. Notice this again in Mark 10:45.

Mark 10:45

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

He came to SERVE and He did this by giving His life as a RANSOM for MANY!

Ligon Duncan says,

“Jesus’ mission was to be the substitute, the vicarious sacrifice offered to God. Jesus understood and embraced it. From the start of His ministry, He knew He had to come to act as a substitute on behalf of His sheep. At the center of His teaching was the assertion that He was doing this not for Himself but for us – to redeem us, to ransom us, to save us.”[1]

[1] www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/jesus-our-substitute

Let’s put Jesus’ powerful declaration of His purpose in context. We see Jesus says he is giving his life as a ransom for many. But did you know he has been even more explicit than that? Three times he gets abundantly clear about what He is facing.

Mark 8:31

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

Mark 9:30-31

30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 

Now, let’s look at Mark 10:32-34.

Mark 10:32-34

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

So, three times in the last three chapters he brings this home…I’m headed to die.

And immediately after this, look what happens. Right after Jesus lays out the difficult journey he is on, the pain he will endure, the injustice he will suffer, the death he will die, notice what happens.

Mark 10:35-37

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Here’s Jesus, incredibly transparent and vulnerable with his friends, and James and John say,

“Jesus, thanks for the update, we’ve heard you say this before, but our concern is really with something else. In your Kingdom, can we have the best seats in the house? We think we’re deserving. Can we have the title of sitting at your right/left hand? Can we have recognition, can we have the honored positions in your kingdom?”

Here’s their request: When you get to glory, when you are sitting on your throne, ruling and reigning, we’d like to be seated at your right hand and at your left hand…Jesus you in the center, where you should be…We want to be seated at your right and left hand…

Notice here: James and John get one thing right…They believe Jesus will be in glory…that somehow, he will be victorious. They have faith this will happen, and so they ask, believing Jesus to be king.

But what are they asking? Jesus, we want places of honor. We want special seats. We want luxury boxes at the game seats! Not just any old seats. We want to be thought highly of, more than the others…

Now, stay with me, but this is important. In Matthew’s biography of Jesus, he records this same story in Matthew 20:20-28. Right before this experience in Matthew 20, Jesus tells the 12 friends these words in

Matthew 19:28

Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Don’t miss it…

  • James and John are mulling over in their minds what Jesus has said…our group of 12 will be with Jesus in places of leadership, in special places of honor…and this intrigues them.

They talk, maybe ask some questions as to what this means…then their discussion goes to another place.

  • “Hey – what if what Jesus is saying is true? What if we could be in a better position than the 10 other people in this group, and sit on the left and right of Jesus in glory?”
  • They draw out the seating chart in the dirt of maybe what the seating arrangement in glory could be.
  • Some have to be seated on the right and on the left, why shouldn’t that be us? After all, we are James and John, right?
  • After all we left our dad, the family business, we left everything to follow Jesus, right? We had a promising career, a chance to take over the family business, but we gave it all up to follow Jesus. Why not ask? We should be up for those seats. And they go for it!

Again, In this portion we are studying, Jesus doesn’t just declare he came to serve us by being our substitute, but he also teach us on how to be servants…and this is key for the Christian today. If we say we follow Jesus, we are to not go the way of the world, but instead the way of the kingdom.

So, let’s spend a few minutes looking at the way of the world versus the way of the kingdom!

The Way of the World

Now watch this, the other ten people in the community group have come near…they’re all huddled around Jesus, James and John. And they’ve overheard what James and John have requested. How do they feel about it?

Mark 10:41

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 

Definition: indignant — To feel pain, to grieve, to be moved with anger or rage.

  • Can you see their posture?
  • Can you hear their words?
  • Hey, wait a minute, who do you guys think you are?
  • Can you see the commotion happening right there on the road as they head towards Jerusalem?

If you want to see what indignant looks like, just look at the next time a head coach disagrees with a referee. That’s what indignant looks like…

And James and John are simply doing what they know and have been trained to do.

 What does the world’s way tell us?

The World Says…

Be Selfish

  1. Be Selfish: Here’s James and John – “Jesus, put us first!” These guys were not thinking about anybody else, at all! Living in a “it’s all about me mentality” at this moment. You want to kill community / relationship? Be selfish. Here’s what we see these guys doing:

Selfish People

            Compete Against Others

  1. Compete Against People. James and John were not complimenting their group, but instead competingagainst them. These 2 were positioning themselves and competing against their group, their brothers, this family that Jesus was creating. They weren’t interested in partnering or complimenting. All about one-upping. These guys literally had to look over their shoulders and around as they walked down this road, and size their lives up against the other 10. Comparing their resume against the others.

    We kill community and relationships when we compare our resume against others, when we size other people up and jockey for position. Have you ever done that?

How else are these guys being selfish?

Selfish People

            Compete Against Others

            Have No Humility 

  1. They Have no humility – Look at vs 39.

Mark 10:39

And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized

Can you guys drink this cup I’m about to drink?  Here’s Jesus saying to them, right after they request the luxury box seats…They answer the question with a quick, “We are able.” They don’t think twice.

They have already sized up the others and are confident in their ability and request. They have no humility. Prideful dudes. This is what Paul is warning of to the church in Philippians. Listen –

Philippians 2:3

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

This is a picture of James and John here…Their selfish ambition leads to not counting others more significant than themselves.

Same with us… when we operate out of pride, out of a lack of humility, considering self as better than it disrupts relationships.

How else are these guys being selfish?

Selfish People

            Compete Against Others

            Have No Humility

            Crave Control

  1. Crave Control:. Here’s James and John – they want control. Look at 42.

Mark 10:42

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 

Jesus points out they are operating out of the norm of the culture—Lording it over and exercising authority.

This was how people related to each other. How can I have control over others, because if I can have control then I will be in a better position, be happier, be wealthier, be more respected?

To lord it over means to be a master over someone.

Unfortunately, this is true today too, especially in some marriages…men and women trying to control each other, trying to have authority over another person. No way. This kills relationship.

Selfish People

            Compete Against Others

            Have No Humility

            Crave Control

            Stop Listening

  1. Stop listening. This is huge, don’t miss this. James and John had stopped listening and it led to a tough spot in relationships and community. Look at Mark 10:32-34.

Mark 10:32-34

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Jesus is telling them what is about to happen. He’s about to be delivered up and condemned to death, and he’ll be spit upon and mocked and flogged and killed. A tender moment for Jesus as he explains his fate to these guys.

How do James and John respond?

“Hey Jesus, can we sit at your right hand and left hand in glory?”


They weren’t listening. And their lack of listening ended up affecting their relationship with their group, with people they cared for.

Jesus’ Response

Well, how does Jesus react to their relationship that has gone south? As soon as Jesus saw this indignation, the posture, the anger, the frustration of the 10, he called them together for some words.

  • He says the way you guys are interacting right now is typical.
  • This is what we see in the world…The norm in the world is selfishness, putting self-first. This is normal.

But look at what Jesus says to them…here Jesus Shows us the Way of the Kingdom.

Mark 10:43-45

“But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus says, “The way of the kingdom is different! And that’s not the way we’re going to relate to each other. Instead, here’s how we’re going to relate to one another…”

And Jesus is now giving us His way to serve well, as He served.

What does the way of the Kingdom tell us?

His way tells us to…

Be a servant.

Don’t be Selfish, be a Servant!

Jesus steps in and says, here’s how we do it in the kingdom…  It’s not a difficult strategy, it’s difficult to put into action, but not a difficult strategy:

Don’t be Selfish, be a Servant!

Why a servant?  What’s so significant about a servant?


  1. Consider other people. They don’t compete with other people.

He says the new ethic I’m giving you as my people, as my followers is completely different than the world. We’re not about competing, we’re not about controlling, we’re not about pride, we’re not about not listening. We’re about serving other people.

Here’s Jesus saying,

 “The world operates with lording and exercising authority over people and the world is miserable. It’s full of unsatisfied empty people. That’s why we’re here. We’re here to show there’s a better way: The way of serving.”

Philippians 2:4

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others.

What else does the way of Jesus and his kingdom show us?


  1. Consider other people. They don’t compete with other people.
  2. Are humble…Not Haughty.

Philippians 2:14-15

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” 

Jesus came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many…Jesus came to be our substitute. And he came to show us how to SERVE.

You see, when we are humble and not haughty, when we embrace this call to serve, we shine like lights in the world.

We can’t be the substitute, but we can be the servant…and when we serve and live the kingdom way, the Jesus way, we shine like lights in the world!

The third thing about Servants is…


  1. Consider other people. They don’t compete with other people.
  2. Are humble…Not Haughty.
  3. Love…they don’t lord over.

Church, this is so important because our relationships…our community… is a pivotal picture that God wants to use to reach the world.

John 13:34

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

We will show the world Jesus by the way we serve one another. We are light to a dark world when we serve each other, love each other. Not when we’re selfish.

Why?  Because It’s abnormal to serve, to put aside ourselves to serve someone else. This is a picture of what the Church is to be…what marriage is to be…how Parents are to be…how siblings are to be…how church staff should be to one another! This is the way of the king and his kingdom!

That’s what we desire to be here – a group of people who deeply treasure Jesus – who serve one another. We want to embody these words, as we follow Christ.

Mark 10:45

For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

We want that truth to resonate so deeply in our bones that we can’t help but serve each other and the world around us because we know how Jesus came to serve us in the most astonishing way imaginable – he gave up his life so that we could have life. He was killed so that we could be saved. Incredible!

So today let me close here:

If you’re here today, and church is a new thing or you’re leaning in to learn more about Jesus and faith, I want you to see that the whole reason why Jesus came was to serve, to serve our greatest need. He didn’t come to be served but to serve us, to provide forgiveness for us, to save us.

You see, this scripture, Mark 10:45, is so significant because Jesus not only instructs his friends in serving, He models what it looks like to serve. He says I’m here, I’m the Son of Man – The Perfect and Spotless-God-became-man-One, God Incarnate – and my aim isn’t for people to serve me, but for me to serve.

  • And Jesus served us by becoming our sin-substitute.

Thomas Schreiner says,

“All people are in need of a substitute since all are guilty of sinning against a holy God. All sin deserves punishment because all sin is personal rebellion against God himself. Jesus Christ came and died in the place of his people, taking upon himself the full punishment that they deserved.”[2]

[2] www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/substitutionary-atonement/

For others of you here today calling yourself a follower of Jesus, let me ask you a few questions:

  • Are you living life defined by selfishness or serving?
  • Do you have a community/relationships? Connected to people?
  • Do you have any relationships that need to be repaired?
  • How in your relationships are you being light to a dark world?