Adult Object Lesson: Mark 10:35-45

What Hat Do You Wear in the Kingdom of God?

Today’s object can be the photo of this historic painting of Napoleon crowning Josephine or it can be a crown of your own manufacture (a Burger King crown is fine!) and a fashioned crown of thorns or an image of crown of thorns. See below!

You might find room in your bulletin for these photos.

Today’s Gospel talks about hierarchy. Where it doesn’t exist, mankind has a way of creating it!

You can point to this painting of Napoleon. Everything that concerned James and John in this week’s lesson is depicted here. Focus on the hats. You have crowns, mitres, skull caps, plumes and feathers, jewels and finery. Hats were really important in that day. They announced your standing in society. Crowns and mitres make you appear that much taller than everyone else. Jewels make you more valuable. And look at the gals in the viewing box in the upper left. They have seats of honor almost among the clergy and royalty. One woman sits on a throne and is flanked on the left and right by people in somewhat smaller seats. You’d have to do some research to figure out who they are today, but back then everyone knew!

People like to feel important.

James and John were seeking similar status. They were young and ambitious. After all, they had dropped everything to follow Jesus. They were loyal and hard-working. They deserved some compensation for their sacrifices. And Jesus had this troubling way of approaching all kinds of people, any one of whom might take their place in Jesus’ affection, if they let their guard down. Best to claim a reservation now!

Jesus tries to realign the disciples’ priorities. It’s not his first attempt! Maybe it will “take” this time as he talks more and more of the coming passion. Talk about this for a while.

Then turn to the headware worn by Jesus—the crown of thorns. This humiliation awaits Jesus and the disciples. The only place of honor they can expect is the honor of service and sacrifice. The lowest shall achieve the greatest reward in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s a concept that we still wrestle with today. Church leaders talk in terms of service, politicians talk in terms of public service. But they, too, face the temptation to elevate their status above that of those they serve.

Look again at the Napoleon painting. Does anyone see anyone in this painting that is accepting a servant role? Josephine kneels—but only to accept the crown. Two gals are arranging her train, but they don’t appear to be particularly lowly. The clergy aren’t out in full force as a show of humility! They are flaunting their status with their symbolic staffs, jewelry and finery.

It’s not in our nature to humble ourselves. But it is required. The sooner we, like the disciples, learn this the better.

Here are the above image in grayscale and an image of Jesus wearing His crown. Use the credit below for the Napoleon photo, please. You can find a higher resolution version of this by typing Napoleon Crowning Josephine into the search box at

Napoleon photo credit: caribb via photopin cc