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. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 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.”
Dear God, I’m this series in learning more about how John and Peter compare with each other, this is one of the few we’ve gotten so far that specifically mentions John.
I guess what I’m thinking about here is John’s family of origin. Did John (and James) grow up with a sense of entitlement? In Mark, when Jesus first called them while they were fishing with their father, it’s says they left him with the hired men. So while they were fishermen, they were the boss’ kids and presumably the heirs apparent. Did they leave behind more wealth to follow Jesus than Andrew and Peter did? Did something in them hope for more financial reward for following Jesus? Did their parents see them as having irresponsibly run off to join the circus, or were the believers? I’m sure they had seen the miracles. Maybe their mom was a believer as well, but she could help trying to give her boys an advantage over the others. It’s also interesting to consider given the passage before when Peter says that they gave up everything to follow Jesus. Did James and John give up just a little more because they had it to give?
We don’t think much about the disciples’ families being around because we are only given very small snippets about them. But here we have John’s and James’ mother talking to Jesus. And she dragging her boys along and making them bow to him. I don’t know how many times in the Bible people feel compelled to bow down to Jesus, but it wasn’t many. He wasn’t that kind of leader. But they were putting him into that category during this interaction probably because they were looking for that kind of power for themselves. In other words, in the pecking order, we bow down to him, but then the others will bow down to us.
I don’t know how old John was at this point, but the one thing we know from this story is that he didn’t stop his mother from doing this. Did he agree with her or not? We don’t know. But we know that he went along with it.
As a privileged white male in our society, I have a lot of advantages over others. Some I have chosen to use for my own gain and some I have intentionally not used in response to your call. But I confess that there are times when I would love to live a wealthier, more powerful, more influential life. I would love to insulate myself from the harder parts of our society and built a tight cocoon around my me and my wife. I have certainly not purged all of the worldly desires in me.
Father, I come to you this morning mindful of my selfishness and my desire to be in control of my life. I am no better than John or James. Help me to get one step closer to turning loose of all of that and embracing your kingdom.
In Jesus’ name I pray,