Summary: A sermon about freedom through following Christ.
“An Extraordinary Promise”
In some ways, tonight’s passage appears to be yet another example of the disciples—and not just James and John—as the fumbling, bumbling Keystone Kops who just can’t seem to get anything right.
Jesus has just told His disciples, for the third time, that He is going to go up to Jerusalem where Jesus “will be handed over to the chief priests and the legal experts. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles. They will ridicule him, spit on him, torture him, and kill him.”
But James and John immediately request for the places of honor when Jesus enters into His glory.
What they don’t understand is that the ironic place of “glory” is the Cross—and that criminals will be the ones to “sit” on Jesus’ right and left.
Also, James and John seem to have a sense that what they are asking of Jesus is a bit misguided or out of kilter.
They act a bit like sneaky children who try and trick their parents into giving them something they know their parents would probably say, “No” to.
So they come up to Jesus and ask that tricky question that most of us who are parents have heard, or that any one of us have said ourselves sometime in our childhood, “Will you do for us whatever we ask?”
What is our reaction to James and John’s request?
Is it laughter?
Is it amazed disbelief that they could make such a request right on the heels of Jesus own death prediction?
Is it embarrassment?
Part of our reaction may have something to do with the fact that we are all, in some ways, a bit like James and John.
Certainly we know better than to make the kind of outlandish, insensitive requests like these narcissistic couple of guys do…
…but if we are really honest with ourselves, we might have to admit that there have, at least been times in our lives when we have wanted the best seats in the house.
We may not be so upfront about it as James and John, but how many of us have spent all kinds of time scheming for privileged positions?
We may want a big house that causes the neighbors to drive slowly by in awe.
Or perhaps we dream of owning an expensive foreign car which will impress and cause others on the road to envy our situation in life.
Maybe we want all the accolades and applause without having to do the work…
…whatever it is, most of us probably long for a lot of things that we would never admit out loud.
So are we really that much different from these greedy disciples?
In our hearts do we often covet the best of the best, the top spot, the place of recognition?
One theologian has said that we all have “Zebedee’s sons in our genes.”
It’s part of our nature.
But coming to terms with our nature, our humanity is a place where we can begin to live a new life of discipleship.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Only those who face their wounded condition can be available for healing and so enter a new way of living.”