Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
“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.”
“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.
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.”
When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 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. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your 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.”
Jesus chose twelve disciples. These were to be his main men. He prayed over them and gave them extra teaching and training. These were the ones he invested himself in and on whom he was to depend. At the end of his time on earth he entrusted his whole mission to them. Twelve special men, the great ones, the faithful ones. One for each of the Old Testament tribes so forming the New Israel. So special in fact that today we see them in our stained glass windows and remember their names.
In actual fact one of them betrayed Jesus, another one denied him three times whilst a third lost all faith in him. And here are two of his inner-core of three completely eaten up by ego and power lust, and not only that but they are hiding it behind their mother’s skirt. James and John are supposed to be the Sons of Thunder!
I work as part of a large team. We cover just about every aspect of church life from the wellbeing of our schools to the care of our buildings to the support for overseas mission. Somewhere in the middle of all this I am embedded doing my church growth and evangelism stuff. We are a good team made up of good people. Though we have different tasks we share a common vision, ‘to change the world’ in God’s name.
So why do I feel the need to be that much more important, successful and influential than the others? Why can’t I be happy to be simply part of the team? Is it due to my insecurities or my ego or a deadly cocktail of both? Why am I not content to simply sit at the table rather than feeling the need to sit ‘at his right or left’?
Most human organisations, clubs, families, offices and empires are basically set up as power pyramids. Jesus turns the whole thing on its head. ‘The first must be last, the top must go to the bottom, the king must become a servant’.
Every now and again it is actually helpful to realise what a bunch of malfunctioning misfits the disciples were. It makes me feel that there is room for me. If they can be disciples then I can be a disciple as well. Sometimes I read all the stuff about commitment, giving things up, forgetting about self, loving the whole world, not turning back, oh and forgiving all the people who do awful things to you, and think, ‘I’m just not that good’. So to discover that there is a great tradition in the Bible of people who were ‘just not that good’, but who were still ‘good enough’ for Jesus reassures, encourages and makes me feel OK.
Yes I have betrayed you,
And I keep denying you before my friends.
Ego and vanity both live in me.
And as for faith,
Well I sometimes think I lost it a long time ago.
My love is often loveless,
My commitment lacks commitment,
And the road is unwalked.
Yet still you call me, believe in me, trust in me.
Are you just naïve, over simple,
Or just not very good at the disciple business,
Or is it that you are Jesus?
I will never be the perfect disciple.
I may never be a very good disciple.
But help me, as I follow you,
To be the best disciple I can be.