In recent weeks I have studied and been wrestling with Mark 10:35-45 where James and John (along with their mother – according to Matthew 20) come to Jesus with a PETITION. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” (Mark 10:35)
They speak to Jesus having just heard the 4th prediction of His upcoming death. Mark 8:31, Mark 9:12 and Mark 9:31 indicate the unfolding of the gospel to these disciples who don’t yet grasp the “good news” that it really is. Then in Mark 10:32-34 using a series of verbs, Jesus once again spells out the details of an upcoming Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
How would a genuine Christ-follower respond to such a prediction? 1) Lord, how may we be faithful to the end? 2) Lord, what would you desire us to do for you? 3) Lord, how does this fulfill the Father’s plan?
Instead, these two “sons of thunder,” the sons of Zebedee have different PRIORITIES. They are craving honor, authority, power and position. Before the rest of the band of followers get to Jesus, they state their case. Their mom, party to their selfish plan, even kneels before Jesus as she takes up their cause.
Before we start throwing stones at the disciples – consider our own praying. Given the opportunity to approach God with freedom and confidence, given the access into the “grace in which we stand,” how do we pray? What priorities are reflected in our petitions? Don’t we cry out for good health, more wealth, peace in our lives and a good life, even when at times we decry the “health, wealth and prosperity gospel?” Don’t we ask for an easier life – that God would bring on the blessings and reduce the trials so that it is easier? We’re not coping very well with pressure, so it would be great if God would reduce it.
How gracious is Christ in His response? Knowing all things, including their hearts, Jesus queries “What do you want me to do for you?” He allows them to be 100% honest, to ask (even selfishly) what is on their hearts. But once they have stated their request He corrects them. “You don’t know what you are asking.”
Isn’t this true of us? We need help to know what to ask. As James 4 states when we ask, we ask with wrong motives. At our core we must be changed. The psalmist expressed it this way – “Delight yourself in the LORD – that’s FIRST, that’s FOREMOST – and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Jesus earlier had commanded “Seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
This week has been a week of “stopped prayers.” God’s been keeping the pressure on because He desires me to have a broken and a contrite heart – that is what He will not despise!