One day James and John’s mum, married to Zebedee (which today still makes me think of the Magic Roundabout) came to Jesus with her two boys with her. Their mother recognises who Jesus is. She kneels before Jesus suggesting she acknowledged his Kingship – his authority – who he was. Jesus asks what he wants and this is where it all goes south.
She asks that her sons sit either side of him in his Kingdom. This was not a good request to make. To sit on the right and the left is to be given the highest ranks possible after Jesus. The one on the right being second in command and the one on the left third in command.
So, she recognised who Jesus was and wanted to make sure after him at number one, it was her two sons next.
How could she do this? Well, we know from other accounts in the gospels that James and John’s mum was Salome and she is the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Auntie Salome is approaching Jesus to speak to him about his cousins. Let’s keep it all in the family is what she is saying. It’s not what you know but who you know, hey Jesus!!!
Jesus replies by addressing the Sons and I wonder why that was. We don’t know whose idea the request was but James and John certainly appear to be going along with it.
Jesus asks them if they realise the high price that would need to be paid to be counted worthy of the position they were seeking. They say, yes, instantly, probably without thinking about what Jesus meant. The brothers were always very bold and that is why Jesus probably nicknamed them the ‘Sons of Thunder’.
Jesus goes on to say, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup’ but who sits where in the Kingdom is not for me to grant. Jesus again showing that it is his Father who he submits to and that any reward is determined by the Father, it can’t be earned.
As the story develops the other ten disciples find out what James and John have been up to. They were not best pleased but Jesus sees this as a teachable moment.
My Kingdom is not like the Roman Empire where power and authority is held over you. No, instead, to become great you must be a servant – to be first, you must be a save. Just like me, who came not to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.
In the world, even in the church, we can all strive for recognition and privilege. We often want to be in control. Jesus says here, that is not the way. Become a slave. This is so challenging to our pride but it is all linked to the call to be humble and meek which we were looking at two Sundays ago.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6
The truly great follow Jesus’ example and seek to serve, not to be served. Wow.
Why not meditate on these words from Philippians Ch 2 regarding how we should live. It is a challenge that we can only do if we are breathing in the Holy Spirit each and every day.
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favour: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honoured him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honour of God the Father.