Extended reading: Matthew 19:25-20:19 with God all things possible, parable of workers in the vineyard, Jesus predicting death
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.”
This is so our human condition. We think we deserve places of honor when we don’t; we think we can do more though we fail miserably. We get angry when we think someone has robbed us of the position we wanted for ourselves.
These disciples had followed Jesus for several years at least. Day in and day out, they heard his teachings, they witnessed the healings he did. They themselves received power for ministry, going out to serve in Jesus’ name. But they were just as prone to faults and failures as any one of us. We see in this passage that they were just as unwilling as anyone else to serve in humility and not presume they “deserve” any places of honor.
There’s no way for us to get around our usual human tendencies but by the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. We are so quick to block God’s will for our own. God is ready to bless us with resources of strength and service, but God will never foist his way in. God will wait to be invited in, every step in continued discipleship. We pray for the gift of humble service. We pray to follow Jesus, he who did not come to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.
Gracious God, forgive our pride and pretension. Forgive us when we try to shove our way ahead of another because we want to be first. Help us, day by day, to take on the character of Jesus in all we do. He gave his life for us. He served in humility, he who is your only Son. Help us serve according to the gifts you have given, for that is how we honor you. This we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.