“Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James & John.” (Mark 10:41)
This verse highlights a danger that good Christians need to beware of. James and John had just asked Jesus that they might sit on His right and left in His glory. This was over-ambitious, prideful, and over-reaching. Jesus dealt with them graciously (thankfully He does the same with us!) but :41 indicates that the fallout from their request was now infecting the other ten disciples in dangerous way:
It says when they heard this conversation that James and John had with Jesus, “the ten” (the other disciples) “began to feel indignant.” It was one thing for James and John to sin with their ambitious request. That was indeed wrong. But now the difficulty was not that of the two brothers — they had been corrected by the Lord — now the danger lay in the RESPONSE of the other ten towards those two. Hard feelings could hinder their fellowship, tear the group apart, and destroy their ministry. So Jesus called them to Himself (:42) and spoke about the importance of serving one another.
Christians today need to beware of this same temptation to indignation. It is one thing for someone we know to sin, whether it is a sin like James & John’s or something different entirely. The Lord will deal with that person, just as He did with the brothers in Mark 10. But those who know the sinful person now face the same temptation which lured the ten in this passage: becoming indignant towards the sinful one. Our bitterness over what they have done, is just as much a sin, and can be just as harmful, as their original trespass!
The older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) is an example of this. The younger brother was the “original sinner” here. He is the one who left home, and squandered his fortune on loose living. But the older brother also ended up sinning: by becoming indignant towards what his younger sibling had done. In fact, his bitterness towards his brother, if never resolved, may have been the more damaging, longer-term sin. We face similar dangers with erring brothers and sisters today.
Indignation is especially a temptation for the very “moral,” “religious” person. Like the older brother in Luke 15, they may feel that they themselves are walking the narrow road, so their temptation is to despise the brother who is not. So even when we are not the instigator of a certain sin, we may still be lured into sin through our own bitterness at the sinner! These are SUCH difficult waters to navigate. No wonder the Lord told Cain in Genesis 4:7: “Sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you.” Sin is so deceitful; so insidious.
So our own bitterness towards a sinning person, may end up doing as much damage as the sin of the person we have grown to despise! We must be on guard not to be tripped up by indignation, what we might call “the sin of the older brother.”