JOHN AND JAMES REQUEST THE BEST POSSITIONS
35And 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.”
36And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”
37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
38Jesus 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?”
39And 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,
40but 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.”
41And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.
42And 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. 43But it shall not be so among you.
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.
45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The time had come for our Lord Jesus to offer his life in sacrifice on our behalf. They were walking back to Jerusalem for the last time, and Jesus knew it.
Suddenly, John and his brother James, came to the Lord and requested to be seated next to our Lord in Paradise, one on his right hand, and another one on his left side.
Whoever sat at any of a King’s sides, enjoyed the highest position in any kingdom. This time, these two apostles, who later came to be known as ‘the pillars of the Church’ (Galatians 2:9), together with Peter, moved by ambition, requested these positions from Jesus; without even paying attention to the supposed place Peter had among them. This proves that Peter had no ‘first place’ in the eyes of the disciples, but that he was just another one of the twelve.
Tradition has that this John, is the one known as the ‘Beloved Disciple’. The author of the ‘Gospel according to John’ (John 21:20-24). In reality we do not know for certain that it was John the son of Zebedee, James’s brother, this disciple whom Jesus loved, but there is a high probability that it was him. If this is the case, he may have acted moved by his mother’s instigation, based on his close ties with our Lord (Matthew 20:20), totally confident that his request was going to be granted without a second thought.
However, Jesus asked them if they considered the cost of such as request.
When our Lord asked them if they could ‘drink’ what He was drinking, and get ‘baptized’ with the same baptism He was, our Lord was asking in other words, if they were willing to suffer martyrdom for His Name.
Without wasting any time, they said ‘Yes’; but then our Lord assured them that they will surely suffer martyrdom in His Name; and it sounded like a death sentence, as well as a glorification prophecy for them.
Jesus clarified that to grant those positions were not up to Him, but after the Supreme Father from Heaven, our Lord GOD YHWH, Father of our Lord. This clearly denotes the predestination of our lives, which we cannot alter.
BUT even though they must have been predestined to it after all (Galatians 2:9), our Lord explained that assignation of positions of honor in the Kingdom of God, were something different to what they knew on Earth.
In the Kingdom of God, places of honor, imply the kind of love and self-sacrificed Jesus demonstrated for us by dying on the cross on our behalf. Honor will be granted according to how much we are similar to Christ, and in this case, consisted in giving of ourselves for the good of our brethren. So much, that even in his life, the first one among all, will be the servant of all.
As Jesus did, when while being GOD, He became human, and subjected Himself to pain, suffering, and death, out of love for us. He came to serve, not to be served, and loved us so much, that He gave his life, so that all those who repent and surrender to Him, based on his vicarious sacrifice, may attain salvation.