THAT SEAT IS ALREADY TAKEN
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her two sons. She bowed down in front of him to ask him for a favor. “What do you want?” he asked her. She said to him, “Promise that one of my sons will sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “You don’t realize what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup that I’m going to drink?” “We can,” they told him. Jesus said to them, “You will drink my cup. But I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. My Father has already prepared these positions for certain people.” When the other ten apostles heard about this, they were irritated with the two brothers. Jesus called the apostles and said, “You know that the rulers of nations have absolute power over people and their officials have absolute authority over people. But that’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be most important among you will be your slave. It’s the same way with the Son of Man. He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.”
The most shocking thing to me isn’t Jesus’s, “Whoever wants to be most important among you will be your slave” teaching. He’s made the “first will be last” point many times and mangy ways. No the thing that I find find truly amazing is the timing of the request. In both the gosples of Mark and Matthew the request for special places of honor, power, and glory come right on the heels of Jesus telling his closest friends that he is about to be brutalized and murdered.
How thoughtless and callous could they be? And the other disciples are no better. Instead of being angry with James and John, they begin to argue for their own worthiness for those positions. All of them thought that they deserved special appointments in the coming kingdom. Jesus knocks the winds from their sails by first saying that those seats have already been assigned by God, and then making it clear that their whole concept of their place and function in the kingdom is upside down and backward.
As I’m writing this we have just celebrated Resurrection Sunday (Easter). And we came to church dressed in bright colors and sang joyful hymns. But remember Jesus didn’t make it to Sunday morning without going through the pain and humiliation of crucifixion on Friday. He was the perfect example of servanthood and slavery. He gave his own life and blood for us. And all he asked (and still asks) is that we be willing to do the same for each other.
All content (except quotations) ©2019 Thomas E. Williams