20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” Matthew 20:20–21 (NAS)
This was an audacious request. You’d expect this from a Little League dad wanting his son to manifest his destiny as the team’s shortstop, but angling for the best seats in the kingdom? I’m at a loss to understand the motivation. It’s delusional. I too would have grown indignant very quickly. The nerve!
We’re glad the Lord was the Lord in this instance. He recognized the teaching moment. He was essentially telling them, even though they would drink of the same cup as he would, i.e., that they would die a martyr’s death, humble service would be the measure of greatness in God’s kingdom.
We think greatness is derived from political or military power, that we must be capable of forcing compliance by way of fear to lead. Not so in the Kingdom. All power and authority is derived from almighty God, to whom even Jesus as his son deferred.
It’s possible, or maybe probable, that the 10 disciples weren’t mad because of the audacity of James and John, but because they were beaten to the punch! It’s human nature to think this way. But Jesus was now on mission, and he needed his men on board.
We need the same clarity of purpose and role as we look forward to his Kingdom.