Matthew 20:20-28 The Seating Order Request

A heart like His

A heart like His

Jesus and His disciples are on their way to Jerusalem for the last time. They stepped off to the side for a private talk just a little bit ago.

James and John’s mother has a request to make of Jesus while they are outside the flow of travelers. I wonder if she was traveling with Jesus and His group or if she met up with them along the way. We know that James and John left their father behind in the fishing boat when they first started following Jesus. I would assume that their mother would be home with him, instead of traveling around with Jesus.

What or who put this idea into her mind to start with? Did she come up with it on her own? How did James and John feel about their mother making this request of Jesus? Did they ask her to approach Jesus with this request because they didn’t want to look too pushy? Was mom driven to see her boys succeed? Why did she think her son’s should have a higher place than the rest of the disciples? Apparently she believed Jesus was going to set up His kingdom right away, like the disciples did.

When she came to Jesus, she came as humbly as she could. She knelt before Jesus and waited for Him to speak to her before making her request known. When she made her request though, she was very direct in what she asked for. She didn’t ask Jesus to promise her anything, but to directly tell her sons that one would sit on the right and the other on the left of Jesus. She didn’t seem to care which one of her sons sat on which side of Jesus.

Jesus said, “You do not know what you are asking” (verse 22). Because the question immediately following that statement is directed at James and John, I wonder if this statement is directed at them too. Is Jesus implying that, even though mom voiced the question, the ones really posing the question was James and John?

James and John had no idea what they were really signing up for when they said they could “drink the cup” that Jesus was about to drink. They were expecting to have a conquering King very soon. NOT a suffering Savior. They would say yes to anything Jesus asked of them. They even believed they would defend Him with their lives, if the need arose.

Jesus confirmed that they would indeed “drink the same cup” as Him. They would do so at a later date though. Jesus’ time was down to a week, while James and John still had a while before they would face the same kind of consequences in their lives. They would eventually follow in His footsteps. The majority of His disciples would too.

I want to set Jesus’ next comments aside for a moment and focus on the other disciples’ reaction. They were indignant at James and John’s mother’s request. Did they believe James and John put her up to it? Did they wish they had thought of asking first? There was definitely competition between Jesus’ disciples for ranking.

Jesus was going to set this straight right now. First of all, God is the one who determines the seating order. Jesus is actually at the right hand of the Father, so the place on Jesus’ left is already spoken for. I wonder if the Holy Spirit is on Jesus’ right. Is Jesus’ right reserved for the one who exemplifies the servant’s heart more than any other’s? Right now, I certainly don’t qualify. My husband keeps calling me to come do things for him and I am not reacting very “servant like” in my heart.

Jesus stressed this point with His disciples. To be great in God’s Kingdom requires being lowly as a servant. Jesus Himself came to serve all of mankind. From His first miracle to His dying on the cross, everything He did was in service to another. He is the Master and Lord, yet He is the servant of all.

Jesus ended His instructions with another comment about His death. Like the previous time Jesus talked about His death, this one too seemed to go on by without comment. Did any of the disciples notice the phrase, “and give His life as a ransom for many.” (verse 28).

Father God, forgive me for not being the servant You want me to be. I get frustrated when I am in the middle of doing something and someone calls me away to meet some need they have. I shouldn’t be this way! I keep trying to rationalize or justify my shortcomings in this area, but I really need to simply repent and ask You AGAIN to help me in this area. I’m so grateful that Your forgiveness doesn’t ever run out. Please Lord, help me develop a true servant’s heart.

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