The Request of James and John
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 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.”
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Humble Boldness (or Bold Humility)
James and John were nicknamed “The Sons of Thunder” – want to know why? At one point, they asked Jesus if they should summon thunder and lightning to fall on a village that had rejected Christ. They were passionate and a bit overzealous at times. And this is where we find them again, boldly asking Jesus for the ultimate gift, to be counted as the most important people in the kingdom of God!!!
Now, if you remember a few weeks ago, we talked about the Syro-Phonecian woman and the idea of spiritual boldness, how sometimes Jesus waits for us to ask and show more faith in our lives…is this one of those moments, where Jesus blesses John and James for their boldness? No – Jesus rejects this request. But if boldness is a spiritual virtue, why does Jesus accept the Syro-Phonecian woman’s request, but reject John and James?
The trick here is to ask the question, “boldness on behalf of who?” If your boldness is on behalf of yourself, for your own glory and advancement, this often devolves into selfishness. So this type of boldness is not always a virtue, but may reveal that you view God as a divine type of vending machine…God then becomes your servant, your genie in a bottle, and that is unacceptable.
But boldness on behalf of others is a totally different story. The Syro-Phonecian woman was bold with Christ on behalf of her sick daughter. This type of boldness, when we cry out and pray for the good of others, is a consistent spiritual value that I believe God honors and answers. And that is the heart of this passage, that boldness must also be humble at the same time, that we boldly strive to become the servant of others and intercede on their behalf, a characteristic exemplified by the life of Christ.
1. What do you think boldness on behalf of others looks like?
2. Are there people in your life who really need you to boldly intercede and help them?
3. Why are boldness and humility so difficult to combine for us?