Summary: We all want a seat of honor
I Call Shotgun
Today we continue on Jesus’ journey. We have followed this journey from Capernaum where the disciples were arguing who was the greatest, through Judea and the encounter with the rich man, and now we’re on our way to Jerusalem. It’s at this point that James and John come up with what they consider to be a pretty good idea.
They’ve been brainstorming cause there’s a lot of time to think when you’re walking miles from here to there. James says, “Hey John, you know, there will be twelve seats in heaven for the twelve of us, so let’s ask for the best seats in the house.” (Matthew’s Gospel) Of course John agrees, thinking if we don’t ask I’m sure Peter will, or one of the others. So they call “Shotgun”!
You’ve done that as a kid haven’t you, or you have kids that have done that. I remember Saturday was a big day when I was a kid. That was the day we left to the farm to go “up town”. Naturally we all wanted to sit in the front seat. Of course that was back in the days of no seat belts, metal dashboards, and no airbags. But we would call “shotgun”!
And we would argue amongst ourselves about who called it first. I called it! No, I did! I called it yesterday! Well, I called it when we got home last week! We would all fight for the seat of honor.
This attitude of being first, or having honor or the prestige of a title still haunts us today. Who is the greatest? We want the seats of honor on the right and the left.
We don’t like taking the backseat to anyone. You and your luggage are in a line that winds toward the ticket agent at the airport. And then a VIP, or a rich person who’s paid more money or something, or someone who knows someone else, gets to go to the front of the line, bypassing all the other schmucks who’ve been waiting their turn.
Maybe there is no line but you still can’t pass because of the rules. Some places of business have this little machine that has little tabs with numbers on them that you pull and when they call your number you get waited on. I’ve seen times where someone had number 43. The sign on the wall says serving #38. You’re the only customer in the store but you can’t get service until they run through #’s 39, 40, 41, & 42.
It’s frustrating. You’re the only customer in the store. Why can’t they just wait on you without going through all the numbers? Well, it may take a few seconds but you will get waited on. James and John don’t want to wait, either.
They go right up to Jesus and say, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” Did you hear those two key words? WE WANT. WE. WANT. WE WANT you to do for us whatever we ask. And therein lies the problem.
They look at Jesus and his power and come up to him whispering some self-serving request. The disciples are just like us all, sneaking around, asking special privileges from God, seeking our own agenda, wanting God to help our team win.
Now, we need to understand this passage in its context. The disciples have been stuck on this issue since way back in Mark 9:33. They’re getting close to Jerusalem now. Jesus is coming closer to his death, a fact that he reminds them of repeatedly. He’s been verbally attacked by the Pharisees, talked about greatness with a child on his lap, and watched the rich ruler turn away. And still the disciples are whining about who is the greatest. Does that surprise us? I doubt it. We, as current disciples, still play these games of power and prestige. It’s all about me, me, me.
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” What a way to ask for something! Kids ask like that, too. “Would you do something for me?” Come to think of it, I know some adults who ask like that. As a parent, I hope you know better than to say yes without first asking what it is they want.
Jesus asked, “What is it you want me to do for you?” What do you want? Man, that is a loaded question. Ask any kid and you’ll get 5, 10, 15 answers like that. That’s like asking, “If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?” A loaded question!
But Jesus asks it. “Well, Me and James here were thinkin’ we’d like to sit at your left and right in your glory.” I love Jesus’ answer. “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Silly, naïve schmucks.