James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “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?” They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Mark 10:35-40
Matthew tells us that the mother of James and John (Salome, sister of Jesus’ mother Mary) made this audacious request of Jesus for them (Matt. 20:20-28). It might have gone something like this. “You ask him,” said John. “No, you ask him,” replied James. “While you both stand here arguing, I’ll ask him,” asserted their mother.
This is reminiscent of my recollection of the prototypical Little League dad or mom, pushing the coach to play their son.
All levity aside, this is an incredible exchange, and a window in on the hearts and minds of those to whom a Jesus would soon toss the keys. There’d need to be some serious teaching going on from here on out to get these guys ready.
James and John, known as the “Sons of Thunder,” may have thought of themselves as on the general’s staff in his campaign to establish his kingdom, but Jesus’ mission was to die a horrible substitutionary death on the cross, not to conquer the Caesar’s and Herod’s of the world, at least on this go-round.
Whatever the case, the brothers’ opinion of themselves was lofty. When all was said and done, they would suffer for their Lord as they said they would, but to sit at his right or left was not up to Jesus, for many would play critical roles in establishing his church.
Even so, following Jesus is not about self-fulfillment but a sacrifice of service to others. We need to drain ourselves in serving the Lord, irrespective of what crown may be ours to win.
But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. Philippians 2:17