The Request of James and John…
“35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked. 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your glory.” 38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at My right or left is not for Me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must 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 as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:35-45 (NIV84)
This scripture begins with Mark 10:35, “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” Let’s stop for a second…this is going nowhere good.
Jesus, do whatever we say, ok?
Can you imagine what would come next if our spouse, our kids, our friends, or those we work with asked us that question? But these brothers, John and James, were bold. They wanted the premium seats, the ones right beside Jesus, where He is enthroned as King.
Disregard the other ten, and let us take the first places, Jesus. Ok?
This begs the question: which would be on the left and which on the right since the person on the right had the higher honor, but they were willing to fight that one out later. The bottom line… they wanted to be first. They believed that they deserved it. Perhaps they felt that they were more intelligent, even more loyal than the others.
Or maybe it is easier to identify with one of the other ten disciples… watching someone covet what you would like, but are not bold enough to request yourself. The NIV translation indicates that the disciples became “indignant” with James and John. This does not imply that they felt Jesus was being betrayed and they empathized with him, but that THEY wanted the premium seats, the power and honor for themselves.
In the words of one pastor, “They may as well have asked for a 20 scoop ice cream cone.” Such audacity. Such arrogance. If they only knew what they were requesting! If they only knew what was to come! If they only knew the cup that Jesus begs His Father to take from Him! But they don’t. They only knew what they want- the first, the most, the best.
How does Jesus respond to this? He knows they do not understand the situation. The text doesn’t share any emotion from Jesus. Was He annoyed that He had given His all to these people and they still quest for power and not His Father’s kingdom? Was He angered that He was about to sacrifice His life for people who would betray Him and seemingly just want to use Him for His power? Or perhaps He is compassionate, understanding the human condition. Maybe He accepts that we all fall short and that it is His role to bridge that gap so that sins may be forgiven and we may have eternal life.
His response is simple: you guys just don’t get it. Furthermore, He says that it’s not His decision who is to His left or right, and “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 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” (Mark 10:43-45, NIV84).
Humility is almost a dirty word in our society. We equate humility with lack of self-worth or with letting people walk all over you. But, according to Jesus, that is not humility at all. Humility is powerful and strong. It is the way of Christ.
Micah 6:8 says, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV84).
In order to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] God”, we must first look at ourselves. We must purge ourselves of the things that are not of God. Humble ourselves to HIS will. Ooops… I said it. HIS will. Not, Lord, I really need a new job or please bring me more money… but if it is Your will please open these doors.
Jesus is trying to teach us to be servants to others, but we cannot do that without submitting to Him and His will. We are to be servants, not the seat of power. We are not to seek prestige, but to “walk humbly”.
Carrie (Guest Contributor)