Demanding The Good Seats

35 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.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
—Mark 10:35-40 (ESV)

Jesus and his disciples are on the long march back to Jerusalem for the last time. Three times Jesus has warned his disciples about his impending death, three times they don’t seem to get it. This time, its James and John who come out of left field. “Teacher,” they say in v.35, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Sneaky that. I can imagine that there were times where it worked on Mrs. Of Zebedee. Jesus is a little more canny though and says “What do you want me to do for you?” Again, they don’t ask, they make a demand, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” This is a little like having your Father tell you he’s got cancer and then asking if you can have his banjo when he’s dead. Still they’re not getting it. Still they are more worried about their seat at the table, their own standing in the kingdom.

In v.38 Jesus tells them, “You do not know what you are asking.” I think that its pretty easy for me to sit here and write this with two millennia of perspective and scholarship available for reference, the entire Word of God, and the Holy Spirit to illuminate it. Its easy to sit back and say, “No kidding they didn’t know.” But the truth of the matter is that many of us pray like they did. “Give us this and give us that and bless us now with ‘whatever we want you to do.” Either that or it’s the frantic prayer of “Lord save me!” now that I’ve got myself into trouble. Either way its far from the humble supplications of Christ in the Lord’s Prayer and the end of the gospel of John.

Jesus response is also very comforting to me here for I can remember many of my own prayers that were similar. It is comforting because there have been many times I have been very grateful that God is Sovereign and all things go according to his plan and not my own.

Can I get an amen on that one or what?

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