A special request

What do you want? What are you after?

In the Gospels, there is a story of a mom and two sons who want something. While it isn’t particularly clear whose initial idea it is, ultimately, the trio make their way to Jesus.

The mother… came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. (Matthew 20:20)

Sounds beautiful. This mother and sons are silently confessing to Jesus: we know you are powerful, approachable, generous, and kind. And we believe you can help us. 

“What is it you want?” (Jesus) 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.” (Matthew 20:21)

In many ways, the mom and sons are “doing the right things” and hold right beliefs on who Jesus is. But the nature of their request is revealed. They came to Jesus because they believed he was good and powerful. And they wanted to be too.

The text doesn’t indicate how the other 10 disciples found out about their little petition, but it does say that they are indignant. Ticked. Why? Because they are so offended on behalf of Jesus? Or perhaps because they all wanted that special rank in his kingdom, as well?

This is the heart of Jesus’ closest followers. 

And I’m not sure it’s that different from his followers today. We go to church, do Bible studies, and listen to Christian music. But ultimately, our hearts still go after our own stuff. 

Our job is not to fix our own hearts. It’s the point of the whole Gospel – that Jesus accomplishes what we could never do. He is the one who gives us a new heart and who makes us a new creation (Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 1:12-13, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

But Jesus does give us some straightforward invitations, including: come to him, know him, remain in him (John 6:35, 10:14, 15:5).

Just before the conversation with the mama, Jesus said he was about to be betrayed. He said he would be mocked, flogged, and crucified. And “on the third day… raised to life!” (Matthew 20:19). 

Why did anyone want a right-hand spot in the kingdom of a man who just said he would be crucified? Were they only focused on the resurrection? Or, maybe, were they not even listening, because they were just waiting for the opportunity to ask a favor?

It can be so easy for us to gloss over complicated or hard teachings in our Bibles. And it can be so natural to pray for selfish things, like this mom and sons came to Jesus for. But these three came to the right person, the same person we are invited to know today. And instead of running away, instead of publicly shaming the request, that person leans in. 

Jesus calls his disciples together, correcting them all with incomparable patience and tenderness. 

You guys don’t understand who I am or what I’m about. Does anyone want to really be great? Be a servant. Anyone want to be first? Be a slave.

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. (Matthew 20:28)

The message we tend to highlight from this passage is an application point to go serve. And that’s great but not entirely complete. Primarily, Jesus is revealing who he is. He is a King that serves. He is a King that is generous. And He is a King so holy and unique that only his life would count as a payment sufficient to redeem mankind. 

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

The danger in life apart from Christ is that there is no life apart from him. If our affections and treasure stay anchored in anything else, we will never be satisfied. 

Jesus has already fulfilled our deepest need: He has made us right with God. He has given us a spot in his kingdom, under the rule and reign of his care, generosity and holiness. And it’s a position that will last for all time. 

We can come to Jesus for anything, and we are instructed throughout Scripture to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But I think part of Jesus’ shepherding over us is a perpetual reminder of who he is, and what he has done. Because it seems to be just what we need most. While we trust God to be faithful in every way he has promised, may we be consistent in responding to his call, simply coming to him, knowing him, and remaining at his side. And ultimately, may He be the one we desire most. 


Read: Matthew 20:20-28
Psalm 139:23-24
Hebrews 4:14-16
Psalm 27:4

What stands out to you in these passages? What are some things they teach you about who God is? How do they point to the Gospel?

Spend some time in prayer as you reflect.


Related: Eyes to See

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