"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." 22 But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They *said to Him, "We are able." 23 He *said to them, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father."
We know that denying God manifests itself in a selfish, self-absorbed, sinful lifestyle that only cares for me and mine and no more. In contrast, becoming a follower of Christ means we take on the attributes of Christ, and we exhibit the character and nature of Jesus in our everyday lives. What a great gift God has given us in Jesus. If we are to be followers of Christ, then we are to treat others as Christ did. Jesus said we are to "lover our enemies," and "do good to those who use you and persecute you."
In recent years, I have seen some of the most rude and disrespectful people, claiming to be Christians, from all walks of life, acting and speaking in a manner that they would never act or speak toward Christ. In Matthew 25, Jesus says "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’" Jesus has a servant’s heart; He demonstrated this in His obedience to the Father, by His willingness to serve in humility as He washed the disciple’s feet. He demonstrated obedience on the cross of Calvary.
As followers of Christ, our focus as believers should be on the selfless act of Christ and our desire to be like Jesus, willing to humble ourselves and be a servant and a blessing to others, demonstrating His selfless love for others to a fallen world. How often we indulge ourselves in selfish disobedience to God, abusing the blessings we have received, while those around us go hungry, struggling without the basic necessities of life, believing there will be no consequences. Disobedience has its roots buried deep in selfishness.
I am reminded of Acts chapter 5, "But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things."
In our society, there seems to be the most entitled generation this nation has ever seen. They feel that they deserve whatever they want in society without doing anything to contribute to it. In my generation, blessings were the result of hard work and ingenuity, we trusted God to provide what need rather than the government. We believed if we were blessed with a good income, its because God gave us the talent or the drive to succeed. We believed if we were blessed with good health, we knew it too was a gift from God. We knew that all that we have, all that we are, or ever shall be, is a gift from God. I still believe that today.
James 1:17 says "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."
Humility leads to a grateful heart for all that God has given us. On the other hand, pride blinds us to what God is doing in our lives. Whatever God has blessed you with, use it for His glory!
"Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 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.” But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They *said to Him, "We are able.” He *said to them, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father."
And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
I find it to be inconceivable, that even in the midst of Jesus predicting His death, the disciples are thinking about themselves. More concerned with how they might be great than what Jesus just told them. There’s so much to unpack from this portion of Scripture, I'm not sure we'll get to all of it today.
Pride is an abomination and should never be pursued in the life of a Christian. I believe that we all understand that biblically, however, I'm sure many of us understand it in terms of our personal experiences. A very important principle for us to remember is, unlike the world, in God's kingdom, humility and suffering is the path through which honor and glory comes. The disciples needed to learn this lesson, they were not alone, many of us today do as well.
Let's look at verse 20, "Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him."
Notice Salome kneeled before Jesus, to show respect before making her bold request. Most of us would be humiliated if our mother asked for something on our behalf. Apparently, James and John don't mind, they were really brash because they wanted to be somebody special, they wanted a place of prominence in the kingdom. The kingdom of heaven needs to be inherited, not handed over to those seeking self- promotion. Even after Jesus had just spoken about His suffering and death, all they could think about was their own self-glory. By the way, Scripture doesn't tell us if they even responded to what He just said. It’s still the same issue today, selfishness, self-promotion and self-entitlement. "I want to be the CEO right out of high school, because I deserve it!"
Verse 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."
The mother of the sons of Zebedee, or Salome, is the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus.This was a political power play, they were His cousins, they were trying to pull rank. They wanted this so badly, they wanted Jesus to Christ into promise it to them. That was the way that a king showed his power, remember what Herod said to his brothers wife's daughter, "I’ll give you anything you want, just ask."
Jesus responds, but He doesn’t really answer her request. In fact, He asks a question of His own to James and John directly. He needed to teach them about what it requires to come to the kingdom: humility, self-denial, abandonment and suffering. Much like the church today, it seemed to escape their notice. Jesus' words in Luke 9, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me," is just a religious idiom rather than a command from our Lord.
Comfortable Christianity says "That’s not what God’s calls us to, He wants to make you healthy, wealthy, and wise. The Christian life is what we can get out of it," they seem to have no idea that in taking up your cross, Christ is talking about suffering. That's not a popular message today, people don't want to hear that. But that is biblical Christianity. Christ says "Follow Me, no matter the cost." Society says "You have to love yourself at all cost." Modern Christianity has created a new cross. The old cross condemns, the new cross condones. I believe we really need to reexamine the whole concept of modern evangelism, we've got it all twisted.
It's spiritual warfare. Which by the way is not chasing after Satan, rebuking and binding him. That's part of the charismatic movement. We do not have that authority. Even the angel Michael did not say "Satan, I rebuke you!" No, he said "The Lord rebuke you!" Spiritual warfare is attacking the lies of false religion, human philosophy, psychology and any idea raised up against the knowledge of God. We fight the battle with prayer and by proclaiming the Word of God. Our weapons are not fleshly, they're divine.
In Ephesians 6, Paul writes "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.."
Verse 22, "But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They *said to Him, "We are able." This cup Jesus is speaking about it’s the way of lowliness, experiencing affliction and suffering. When we suffer for the cause of Christ and the gospel, we are building up a greater inheritance of glory in eternity. Jesus is saying, "If you seek to sit beside Me, you are seeking the same suffering that I experience. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?" The cup is commonly represented as full of wine, which his enemies have to drink. The "redness" of the wine symbolizes the shedding of blood. It's an Old Testament idiom that means to take everything in. Because He went through such profound suffering, He is going to be exalted to full glory. The eternal weight of glory is predicated on suffering.
Isaiah 51, "Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk from the Lord’s hand the cup of His anger; The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs."
In their audacious self-confidence, they said "We are able." There are a lot of people with excessive confidence, who are like that, they think they can handle any task, but they have no idea what's involved. The cup that Jesus drank from is more dark and destructive than anything we could ever imagine. Jesus is extremely patient and compassionate, He doesn’t correct them. Instead, Jesus points out that they will drink His cup.
Look at verse 23, "He *said to them, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father." The time came when they were faithful, James would later be the first to be put to death and John would be exiled. They wouldn't drink the full cup, but they did taste the same cup. They did participate in the fellowship of His sufferings, just not the fullness of them. So they will be glorified, but whether it is to be given to them to sit on His right and on His left, we don’t know. God will reward as He sees fit. This truth is right in line with the parable of the vineyard, God will reward whomever He wants to reward.
Verse 24, "And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers." You would think that the ten were upset that James and John could ask such a thing, right? Wrong! This was not righteous indignation, this was jealous indignation. They were actually upset because they got in there before they did. In fact, they were always arguing about it, remember the Last Supper? In Luke 22, he says "And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves."
Verse 25, "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them." It's the Greek word "katakurieuó," meaning one in a position of power exercises authority over someone. Jesus is talking about earthly rulers seeking to show their greatness by acting as tyrants and exercising power over others, He's talking about a dominant dictators who seek more power, more prestige, more influence. We've seen it in governments, in companies, who throw the weight of their power around. Sadly it happens in the church too, pastors who can't be told anything, who use fear to intimidate, control and manipulate their followers.That’s not the way it is in the kingdom of God, where that’s everything is reversed. The way to be exalted is humility, lowliness, sacrifice, selflessness and suffering.
Verse 26, "It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant." Jesus says we are not to be like the world, we do not seek greatness! This fits in with John 18, when "Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." It’s the opposite in the kingdom of heaven.
There are many today in contemporary Christianity, who pursue power and prominence, who esteem themselves to be great. They'll soon find themselves on the bottom, beneath everyone else, whose lives were marked by humility, and selfless service, when they stand the test of fire at the judgment seat. Jesus isn't saying seeking greatness is wrong, He's saying their motive isn’t right, they're doing it for all the wrong reasons. In the kingdom, you become great by being a humble, selfless servant, like Jesus who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." We must seek greatness on God’s terms. Jesus doesn't us to do anything that He was not willing to do this Himself. Don’t waste your time doing it for the wrong reasons. God knows the hearts of men, He knows the reasons why we do what we do. I believe that’s why the Word of God is so foreign to the worlds understanding, it’s hard for them to digest. Nonetheless, we must proclaim the truth of the gospel.
Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
The word servant is the word "diákonos," meaning lowly service, one who executes the commands of another, the opposite of puffed up and proud. It eventually became a religious term to mean deacon, one who serves the physical needs of the church.
In verse 27, He says "And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave." Notice that Jesus uses a word of even lesser status and nobility than the word diakonos, the word "doúlos," a slave, or bond-slave, meaning someone who is owned or having been purchased. In Matthew 6, Jesus says "No one can serve two masters.." In the Greek Master is the word "kýrios," a title given to a person exercising absolute ownership rights. Jesus proclaimed over and over His absolute dominion over those who belong to Him, furthermore, He refused to sugar-coat its implications. Therefore, our submission to Christ is not a voluntary matter of choice. Regrettably, contemporary Christianity has distorted what it means to be a Christian, by shying away from use and the full force of the term "doulos."
In 1 Corinthians 6, the Apostle Paul writes, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."
Contrary to popular theology, under the new covenant, God has no servants, which implies an inherent notion of volunteerism. A servant implies a paid person who is free to go elsewhere, Jesus never offered a salary to those whom He redeemed from the kingdom of darkness. Due to the extremely negative connotation attached to the word slave, many translations have opted to use the word servant as opposed to slave, which leads to the notion that obedience to Christ is voluntary rather than required. Jesus is straightforwardly using the standard word for "slave," bound to an owner, a permanent enslavement to serve God. If you are a Christian, you are a slave of Christ. This is a graphic illustration of how committed we are be to serving Christ and one another to find the true place of greatness.
We live in a society fixated on the concepts of freedom and personal rights. However, slavery is exactly how Jesus Himself defined the personal relationship between Himself and every true follower. In John 14:15, He says "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Throughout the New Testament, Jesus continuously made the connection between slavery and discipleship. In Matthew 10, describing the meaning of discipleship, He says "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master." In Matthew 25, in the Parable of the Talents, He says "Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’"
Jesus is repeatedly stressing the concept of obedience as proof that someone is His disciple. Submission and obedience then, are the mark of authentic saving faith. Rightly understood, as slaves we aren’t owed any explanation. Our proclamation of freedom, is from the captivity of sin and therefore, becoming slaves of righteousness. For those who choose to believe and accept submission and obedience are voluntary, their profession of faith is just empty words, and eternal damnation awaits. Either way, we are all enslaved, the only question is your choice of master. Careful attention to behavior, will clearly indicate your decision.
In Romans 6, Paul writes "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." I do not believe there is any legitimate way to make Paul or Jesus' words sound more appealing. The bottomline is, if anyone deserves to be served, it is the Lord Jesus Christ, who willingly laid down His life and paid the price for our sin. Most Christians today seem not to truly understand that means you must then be a slave.
That brings us to verse 28, "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." On behalf of sinners, Christ willingly abandoned His own life in an act of humble selfless service. The Creator of the universe, He who knew no sin, became sin for us and was obedient even unto the death of the cross. God so highly exalted Him. If you want to be a Christ follower, He is our example! The King of kings came to serve. I dare say, those who claim to know and love Him, and follow Him, understand very little of this kind of selfless love. John 15:13, says "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." Jesus sets the pattern for us, if we are to become great, we do it by suffering, sacrificially loving and serving others. A simple and yet profound truth. May we all seek to be great through the path of humble service. And hear the those coveted words from our Lord, "Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’"
May it be so..
the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
Now and forever, in Jesus' name