Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 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, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
I was reflecting one day, as I watched a group of children playing soccer, was I one of those ‘soccer dads’ who, when I watched my son David play, stood on the sidelines shouting words of support and challenging him to play harder and be more assertive in his tackling and more aggressive in going after the goal? Was I trying to live out my sporting dreams through his skill and ability? You know how it is sometimes with parents; we see them on tv shows thrusting their children into the public eye through talent shows, beauty pageants, and the like. Where is ‘Honey Boo Boo’ now, I wonder?
Were the disciples James and John similarly pushed forward by a doting domineering mother? Well, not exactly, because for one thing, they were grown men, well capable of speaking for themselves. It is more likely that they got their mother to speak on their behalf, voicing a concern held by all of the disciples as to whether their loyalty would be rewarded, but each was embarrassed to ask about it outright.
Before we tut in disapproval at their pushiness (or is that something only ‘the Brits’ would do?), we would do well to ask ourselves if we are any different. Is our faith wholly altruistic, concerned solely with the service of Christ, or is there more than a hint of safeguarding our ultimate destiny, guaranteeing a future blessing in the life to come? There is probably an element of that in everyone’s faith, but we are called to serve Christ for his sake rather than our own, to seek his kingdom rather than our welfare. If faith becomes just another way of putting ourselves first, then it is time to think again, for whatever else it may be, that is not faith at all. You need to ask yourself do you follow Jesus for what you can get out of faith or what you can put in? Are you more concerned with securing future blessings than offering present service?
Perhaps this prayer from my prayer guide, Nick Fawcett, could be your prayer this week? ‘Loving God, teach me the values of your kingdom and the joy of knowing you, so I may put you first and self-second, to the glory of your name. Amen. (Nick Fawcett)
Shalom to you, my friend,