“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you?’ And He said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to Him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking.’…” – Mark 10:35-38
What does your prayer list look like? Many of us have a laundry list of requests that we lay before the Lord on a regular basis. Things that we think we need or things that we want that we lay before our heavenly Father. Things that we need guidance about or things that are worrying us. It is a good thing to bring our requests and concerns to the Lord so that we may find peace that is beyond understanding (Philippians 4:7). It is also true that we do not always know what we “need” and, therefore, what we are asking…like the two disciples in todays passage. “Hey Jesus, could you do me a favor?”
I would like to pause here for a moment to focus on the patient compassion of Jesus. He knew what they were thinking. He knew that they wanted to secure positions in His future administration. He knew that they were on a totally different channel, but His first response to them was, “What would you like me to do for you?”. Our Savior is the good Shepherd. He is the generous and loving Father and He wants us to know it. He does not use our wrong motives or arrogant attitudes as an opportunity to condemn us or shame us, He uses it as an opportunity to gently teach, correct, and guide us.
James and John were brothers and they were close, even for siblings. They both grew up working for their father in the fishing business on Galilee. They both answered the call to follow Jesus at the same time. They even had a reputation for causing trouble together that earned them the name, “Sons of Thunder”. So, no surprise, they both come to Jesus…together…to make a request. Their appeal reveals their passion to be close to Jesus but also their desire to have a significant spot in the coming kingdom. They are basically asking that they have the #1 and #2 spots in the chain of command under Jesus.
We are told in the verses that follow that the other disciples are annoyed with the audacity of these two and, honestly, most of us reading it today agree. “Who do they think they are?” Jesus uses the opportunity to remind them that following Him will be harder than they think. Then Jesus gathers all the disciples to use this as a teaching moment. Greatness in the Kingdom of God is measured by a willingness to serve each other;
“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be a slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45
Today we are first reminded that when we come to the Lord with our petitions, we must be willing to have our request redirected to align with God’s purposes and will for His glory. After all, prayer is about getting on the same page as God, not about getting God on our page. This starts with a humble attitude of a servant (Philippians 2:3-5).