Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons approached Jesus with her sons. She knelt down to ask Him for something. “What do you want?” Jesus asked her.
“Promise,” she said to Him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and the other on Your left, in Your kingdom.”
But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”
“We are able,” they said to Him.
He told them, “You will indeed drink My cup. But to sit at My right and left is not Mine to give; instead, it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”
When the 10 disciples heard this, they became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”
Here was a mom who loved her two boys and was full of pride for them. Sounds familiar for today. We all want the best for our children. But instead of Jesus getting mad at her or her sons, He answers them differently. This is the crux of Jesus’ ministry. He responds differently, and in a way that could not be challenged. This passage was not written to chastise James and John, but it shows just how effective Jesus’ answer was. Jesus was about to be killed and they knew it. They were trying to secure their place. But soon everything would change for these two sons.
James and John were known as the sons of Zebebee or often called the sons of Thunder by Jesus himself. They were the second and third disciples chosen after Peter, and were part of Jesus’ close circle. James was the first disciple to be martyred after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and John was exiled and wrote Revelations. That is a far change in behavior from their mother’s initial request.
So what changed? It might possibly have been changed by Jesus’ reaction to their request: You don’t know what you ask. He didn’t rebuke or criticize them. Instead, He gathered them all together and taught them what they did not know.
I hope I remember this story the next time I am prone to respond in anger. It’s a hard thing to do, but who knows what rippling affect my own actions could have on the future.