In the Matthew reading today, the mother of John and James asks Jesus to grant her a favor: let her sons have the seats to his left and right in his kingdom. I don’t know about you, but every time I read that I am just amazed at so many aspects of the story.
But as I type this, my opinion about that mother is changing. I just realized that she is perhaps not so presumptuous or rude as we might judge her in our culture. She may not be the stereotypical stage mother.
After all, she is taking a great risk as a Jewish woman to approach a male Jewish leader in her culture. I wonder what motivated her?
I thought of something new as I read Jesus’ response to this inappropriate request (that also angered the remaining competitive disciples). He says:
You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father. (Matthew 20: 23, NIV)
When Jesus drinks from the cup, who is on his right and his left? Not John and James, but two thieves. As they stared up at their Lord dying on the cross, the “sons of thunder” may have finally understood what Jesus said next:
… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Vs. 26b-28, NIV)
What also struck me anew is that Matthew follows this exchange with the story of the blind men shouting for Jesus to show mercy on them.
I can just see these guys sitting by the road, yelling out loud to get Jesus’ attention (not sure how far away he is or if they can be heard) and the folks around them trying to hush them, as if to say, “This guy is too important for you. Keep it down. Don’t disrupt things.”
The blind guys knew better. So they just shouted louder. And they were right.
Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, so:
[He] stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked [in other words”How can I serve you?”]. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. (vs. 32-34)
I’d follow this guy, too.
He looks out for the least among us. And he has compassion on us.
Oh, Lord, help me take your yoke upon me. Help me learn to serve as You did. Give me your compassion for others (especially those closest to me). Amen.