“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NASB)
Series Focus: “Along the Way”
Deep down, I believe we have all experienced a desire to feel included, loved, or at least a part of something that makes a difference. We fight for what we believe in with others who have similar aspirations, join clubs with those with the same interests, and choose friends with related values and morals. But, even belonging to these like-minded groups, our various backgrounds or circumstances can stir up differing opinions in other areas of life.
Think about the first twelve disciples Jesus called to follow Him. Fishers, a tax collector, and even a revolutionary, were part of this team. These men came from different families and had unique challenges, but with Jesus, became united in His mission to seek and save the lost.
Two of His disciples, James and John, were brothers. After following Him and watching Him teach, heal, cure, and restore so many who came to Him for help, they, too, had a question for Jesus. We find this encounter in Mark 10:35-45:
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Him and said to Him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And He said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
At first glance, we might conclude it took a lot of nerve for James and John to request such an honor. Why would they deserve the places of highest seating over the remaining 10 in the group? The scripture describes the others as indignant toward the brothers when this appeal to Jesus was asked. If you have ever been passed up for a promotion or left off the invitation list for a big party, you might understand how these 10 guys were feeling.
Jesus addresses this request as only He could. With truth, grace, and a picture of what they are being called to do. He isn’t cruel or scornful, but He reminds them of what will be asked of them. Persecution, suffering, and most likely death will be in their future all because they followed Him. Jesus emphasizes He has come to serve others, not to lord the law over them. Humbly, He took the cup of sin and suffering upon Himself all the way to the cross where His body was beaten and His life taken.
You, like these disciples, may encounter harshness, anger, and mistreatment over your choice of being a follower of Christ. Are you able to drink the cup He drinks? It may not feel like it, but you can. Your strength comes from within—the Holy Spirit—who helps you in these moments of hardship. Perhaps James and John asked for the reward of reserved seating next to Jesus in eternity for the work they would do in His name. Only God the Father has the authority to fill those places. Our reward is living with Him forever when we say yes to Jesus.
Jesus fills every place in us that is hoping for inclusion, love, or acceptance. He calls us into His family where we can make a difference for the Kingdom of Heaven while we are here. Let’s rejoice to have a seat reserved at His table, joyful no matter the placement.
Holding Fast to Hope,
Scripture References: John 3:16; Mark 10:35-45; Matthew 20:20-28, 26:20; Luke 14:10