As Jesus concluded His gospel-centred instruction at the side of the road, the mother of James and John showed up. Had she heard what Jesus had just said? “He (or she) who has ears to hear, let him (or her) hear” Jesus had said on many occasions. This ‘disciple’ had ears, but was she really hearing?? Or for that matter, were her sons grasping the truth of the clear plans delineated by Jesus?
“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and kneeling down, asked a favor of him.”
Kneeling before Jesus? Isn’t that the posture of homage? Will she and her sons declare their whole-hearted allegiance to the KING of kings?
The gracious mercy of Christ towards sinners is seen so clearly in His response. He, who had created these ‘creatures’ now invites them to declare the favour they so eagerly desired. “What is it you want?” he asked.
Her answer reflects courage, honesty, focus but ultimately self-centredness. Isn’t this so typical of many of our prayers? Paul indicts all believers when he writes to the Philippian church – “For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 2:21) Last evening, as our Discipling group at my home church wrestled with the Biblical standards of sexuality and purity, we noted the ‘lists’ of sins throughout the New Testament. Selfish ambition (Galatians 5:19-21) is just as lethal as any other toxic sin. “Those who live like this” and manifest ongoing “selfish ambition” will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:21)
What does this supportive mother desire for her two sons? “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
Jesus rebukes them, because those whom God loves He disciplines. He challenges their motives and anticipates for them the trial-filled journey that lies ahead. The rebuke must have left James, John and their mom with reddened faces and broken hearts.
Sin begets sin and word of this ‘request’ spreads to the rest of the apostolic band. The ‘ten’ were indignant with the brothers. “How could you do such a thing?” “The nerve of the two of you!” “And to think you call yourselves disciples?” “Why on earth did you involve your mother?” Can you hear the attitudes of pride, envy, anger and self-righteousness which so easily creep into all of our hearts?
The Master calls for another time out! Though such conduct is typical and tolerated among the nations of the world, HIS followers must be different. In 4 short words He declares an end to such ‘ambition’ and ‘attitude.’ “NOT SO WITH YOU.” Christ will not tolerate selfishness. To be like Jesus is to be ‘others-centred.’
Well might we pray,
“Lord, help me live from day to day, in such a self-forgetful way,
That even when I kneel to pray, My prayer shall be for others.”
“Others, Lord, yes, others, Let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others that I might live like Thee!”