Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Sons of Zebedee

“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left’.” (Matthew 20:20-21 NASU)

Although it seems like an innocent request that this loving mother was making on behalf of her two sons, her motives were from a heart of flesh. Perhaps she was thinking that the kingdom of God would be set up along the same order as the Sanhedrin court which governed Israel under the Roman Empire. She desired that her sons be exalted above the others that they might be served rather than be servants. It is of the flesh nature of man to desire to have authority or to “lord it” over one another; to demand to be served rather than to serve.

22 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.”

How strange is the infatuation of men which leads them to desire ecclesiastical honors; he must be in love with his Lord who wishes to be a minister of the Gospel. If he is called of God in the work of the Gospel his life will be a life of toil and suffering, he will at least sip, if not fully drink of the cup of Christ.

If any man accepts the call to the ministry of the Gospel he accepts unto himself to answer for the souls that are put under his care.

For a man who is not called of God it would be better that he beg for bread than to take upon himself a ministry which God has not called him into; and in which he will not only ruin his own soul, but he becomes a false prophet that leads others down the broad way to destruction; for if God has not sent him he will not profit the people at all.

The mother did not know that authority with power in the Kingdom of God comes through serving, and in serving there would be suffering.

“He said to them, ‘My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.’” (Matthew 20:23 NASU)

Jesus confirms their calling; indeed they would humbly serve, and in their service to the kingdom of God they would suffer, as He himself suffers.

In their Christ-likeness they gave their lives preaching the gospel in the cause of Christ that many might be ransomed. James was martyred by Herod and John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. As to their place in glory; these things, He says, “is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

24 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:20-28 NASU)

James, John and their mother’s ambition for them to be exalted lead to murmurings and animosities. Such selfish ambition leads to disruption that could prove to be the ruin of the disciple’s ministry. Christ immediately intervened. He explained, the order in which they were to follow would be far different than that of the Gentiles. Their relationships would be founded in service with humility and brotherly love.

In Christ likeness God’s sons are not called to be served, but to serve. Authority with power belongs to those who humbly serve. Thus in God's “economy” we give up ourselves to God and the result is serving others and glorifying God.

James C Sanford

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