20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21 “What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.
23 Jesus said to them, “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.”
24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—28 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.”
When I was 14 years old, my Mum got me my first job – working at a petrol station. Slightly embarrassing – it was her idea, not mine – but hey, it worked! I wonder what James and John were thinking, getting their Mum to ask Jesus for places of honour next to Him in His future Kingdom. Maybe they thought she’d have more success, or maybe – like a proud and caring Mum – she was vying for her son’s future and they were unaware. Jesus, curiously, doesn’t rebuke her (or the brothers) but uses the moment to teach and illustrate to the disciples what’s really important. He has barely finished saying, “the last will be first, and the first will be last” and that He would be crucified (for the sins of the world) and be raised from the dead three days later (see yesterday’s passage) but the message hadn’t sunk in. Humility – not greatness is what Jesus wants. Serving others counts for greatness in Jesus’ books, not fame or power. And just to drive the point home Jesus uses a gut-wrenching word at the end of this passage – ransom. A ransom is paid when someone precious is held captive and will surely died at the hands of the captives if the money is not paid. We were held captive by sin, hell and the devil – death was inevitable. Yet Jesus, in an act of humility and selflessness, come to this earth for the express purpose of being my ransom. He paid for my life and your life with His own.
I wonder if a mother’s request for greatness for her sons faded immediately away, and in its place rose a broken contrition and tears of gratitude at the lengths this Jesus would take to save us. Do I seek greatness like James and John did? Or am I lost in wonder and, with tears, humbly receive the ransom that Jesus paid to save me?
Jesus – I have never felt so loved! “He gave His life as a ransom for me. Now I belong to Him.” Today, I accept and receive that ransom again. Amen
Written by B van Noppen