Nearness to Jesus
Matt. 20:20 ¶ Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him.
Matt. 20:21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”
Matt. 20:22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”
Matt. 20:23 He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
Matt. 20:24 ¶ When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers.
Matt. 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.
Matt. 20:26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant,
Matt. 20:27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave;
Matt. 20:28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Do you think that James and John were embarrassed at their mother's intervention -- or had they possibly put her up to it? We don't know for sure but it is thought that she may have been the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus and therefore would have been Jesus' aunt. Maybe, because of this close family tie, she felt that it was appropriate to use this influence for the good of her sons. I'm guessing they were in on the plan because when Jesus questioned them -- the boys responded. They all wanted this to work out so that when Jesus took over the country politically, they would have their positions. They still didn't understand what was about to happen.
We don't get very far into Acts (12:2) when we read of the death of James, "put to death with the sword" by Herod. Yes, he certainly drank from the cup of suffering. John goes on to live longer than any other of the Apostles but it is a life filled with suffering and persecution. The brothers had no idea what they were setting themselves up for when they committed to serving in the kingdom. This was to be a new and different kingdom, one in which things were turned upside down and those who were to be leaders, were to be servant leaders. The disciples may live lives of service to many and they may have to suffer at the hands of the world, but the promise was not earthly position, but nearness to Jesus. And this, they came to learn, was enough.
There are times in life when even the most sincere Christians may struggle with their egos a bit. Let's be honest, it feels good to get affirmation from others and to find ourselves with positions within the kingdom, but is that truly what God wants from us? Ultimately what both James and John learned was that nearness to Jesus was more important than anything the world and its systems had to offer. It was nearness to Jesus that brought James hope during his imprisonment and ultimately his death at the hand of the sword. In John's years of exile his writings have nothing to do with human position, but everything to do with the depth of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that empowers him to be of humble service day in and day out.
We are promised an intensely personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He will never leave us or forsake us. Everything else becomes a shadow in the light of Jesus! The closer we are to him -- the more that we fall in love with him -- the more that we spend time in fellowship with him -- the more we realize that the things of the world's kingdoms simply don't matter. It was when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit that things began to radically change! We read that soon after this Peter and John went to the temple where a man was begging. Peter and John had no money -- their earthly kingdom was rather poor. But how did Peter respond? “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” They had nearness to Jesus through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They didn't need anything that the kingdoms of the world had to offer - they had all the power of Jesus Christ available to them because of their connection to him!
Are you worried today about where you fit in the worldly kingdom? Don't worry -- it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is nearness to Jesus Christ. Draw near to him today and give over every part of your being to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and then step out of the door and into the world as a servant leader in Jesus' kingdom! And in the midst of it all, remember that he will never leave us or forsake us. The promise is not one of position or power, but of the presence of Jesus with us in every moment of life.
Lord, thank you for the promise of your presence. Amen.