The request of James and John

The Life of Jesus Christ - Chapter 8 - Jesus' last journey to Jerusalem - Part 6

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Mark 10:35-45

The *disciples wanted honour and power

Jesus and his *disciples were now approaching Jerusalem. Two *apostles, James and John, who were brothers, asked Jesus a question:

·  When Jesus began to rule his *kingdom, could they sit one on each side of him, as an honour?

James and John thought that a *kingdom would begin on earth immediately. [The *kingdom that Jesus spoke about is God’s *kingdom. Everyone who loves God belongs to his *kingdom. But God's *kingdom is not yet complete.] The *apostles wanted power for themselves. It was like a request for an important job in government.

There is some evidence that these brothers may have been cousins of Jesus. [See the Appendix [extra remarks] at the end of this section]. So they asked Jesus to keep important jobs in the family. This happens often in the world today. Notice what the request means. They wanted great honour and power for themselves. They did not ask to be servants in the *kingdom. They did not ask Jesus to use them. They asked for honour and power.

The other *disciples' reaction

The other *apostles were very angry. They also wanted these jobs! The *apostles all had selfish ambitions. They thought, 'What is there for me in all this?' This was a struggle for power. So, they asked, 'Who would be greatest?' (See Matthew 18:1-3, Matthew 19:27-30, especially verse 27.)

The brothers did not really understand their request. Jesus told them this. They did not understand until after the *resurrection who Jesus really was. Jesus is God. Also, Jesus would suffer very much before he could rule in his *kingdom. The brothers did not understand this. Jesus spoke about it. He asked the brothers if they could suffer with him. The brothers bravely declared that they could! Jesus then replied:

Mark 10:39, 40 'You will drink the cup that I drink. You can have the same *baptism as I have. But I do not choose who sits at my right or left. God chooses the people who will receive these honours.

Power in God's *kingdom

Jesus then made another statement. This shows that the *Kingdom of God is far better than any *kingdom on earth.

Mark 10:42-44 Jesus called the *disciples together. He said, 'You know this. The rulers of the Gentiles [Gentiles are people who are not Jews] have great power. Their important officials give many orders to people. You must not behave like that. Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. Whoever wants to be important must be a slave of all.'

In *kingdoms on earth, power is usually a bad thing. There are many beautiful great houses in my country. The people who built them were often very poor. Rich people forced them to work very hard, without much payment. We can still see that this happens today, across the world. It happens when some people have power over other people. We even see this problem in the church. In the Bible, the *apostles had wrong ambitions, until Jesus died on the *cross. This is not what Christ teaches. He teaches that in the *Kingdom of God our ambition should be to serve other people. We should not try to become the person who gives orders. Our ambition should not be to rule other people. Our ambition should be to help them to know God. This would bless them, and help them to serve other people. (Of course, we should still have leaders. But the leaders should be servants of other people. They should help other people.)

Jesus came to serve

Lastly, Jesus made one other statement. This showed how he himself had come to serve.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man [Jesus] did not come so that other people would serve him. He came to serve other people. He came to die, and to rescue people from the results of their *sin.

Here is something wonderful. Jesus is the son of God, and his home is with God, in *heaven. But he left his home in *heaven. He came into this world, which he had made. He was born in our world, and he had a humble birth. His family was poor. His birth was in a shed for animals. He did not come to rule over us, like a proud man. He came to serve. He came to cure sick and blind people. He came to tell people the good news from God. But especially, he came ‘to give his life’. Here is another wonderful thing. He came not so much to live, but to die. He came ‘to die, to rescue people from the results of their *sin’. He came to die on the *cross for our *sins, so that God might forgive us. Then God can give us *eternal life.

John 3:16 'For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Whoever believes in him shall not die, but shall have *eternal life.'

Christian leadership

This is the kind of leadership which Jesus shows us. He wants us to have leaders like that. And he wants us to be leaders like that. These ideas are very different from the ideas that the *apostles had! Let us remember that Jesus taught this lesson to *apostles. He was not teaching other people. He wanted his *disciples to be humble. Jesus patiently repeated the lesson several times before he died on the *cross. How much Christian people need to learn this lesson! There are many jobs which somebody must do. We need to be ready to do some of them. We need to be ready to serve other people, and not merely to give orders. If it is best for the church, we need to be ready to give up our Christian job. To help the church, we need to be ready to do something else. If we all lived as real Christians, we would live like Jesus. He did not come to order other people about, but to serve them. He lived his life for other people. He even died for other people.


Appendix [Extra remarks]

Who was the mother of James and John?

The account of the request of James and John in Matthew (Matthew 20:20-28) mentions their mother. She also requested this. She wanted her sons to be important in God’s *kingdom. But who was the mother? We know the names of the three women who were at the *cross. Different books of the Bible give different names.

Matthew 27:55-56: These women provided for Jesus and his *disciples. One woman was 'the mother of Zebedee’s sons.' [Mark 1:19 tells us that Zebedee was the father of James and John.]

Mark 15:40: The name of the ‘mother of the sons of Zebedee’ was probably Salome.

John 19:25: This lady may even have been Jesus’ aunt.

This is therefore a very clever thing for James and John to do. They did everything that was possible to get their ambition. And today, people still behave in the same way!


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