Summary: Many Christians today are guilty of thinking that Jesus wants us to be comfortable. Our comfort, at least in this life, is not very high on his list of what he wants for us.
It has been about 3 years that Jesus has been working with the disciples. They have heard some teaching that they understood, and some that they didn’t. They have seen Jesus do some incredible things. They believe with all of their being that he is the Messiah. But what they believe of the Messiah is that he is going to beat up the Romans, and take over the world. They don’t know how it is going to happen, but they are sure that is the plan. For these followers of Jesus it is more political than spiritual…their faith in the Messiah is more concerned about earthly power than heavenly peace. They want to be a Senator on the King’s council, not preachers in a servant’s dungeon. Although they have listened to Jesus, they have not heard him. Jesus spoke of a kingdom to come, not a government to overthrow. Jesus spoke of a heavenly throne, not a senate seat…and yet these disciples of Jesus are so convinced about the political direction of Jesus’ leadership that they begin fighting over the best seats in this King’s Parliament.
During this 3 years the 12 have been heavily involved in ministry. But there is also a smaller group of three that was involved in some special privileges. Peter, James and John are often mentioned as a separate group, a closer group. They were the ones that actually went into the house of Jairus when Jesus raised his daughter from the dead. They were the ones invited up onto the mountain when Jesus was transfigured before them. They were the ones who, in just a short time, would be invited in with Jesus when he goes to the inner parts of the Garden to pray on the night before he is crucified.
So it makes sense that they would start feeling special. But three is an odd number…three just does not fit. Have you ever gone to an amusement park with just 3 people? One always ends up riding alone, or with someone you don’t know. If you have had two other friends, you probably know that at times it seems like 2 gang up on the third. When you ride in a car, 2 sit up front and the 3rd sits in the back. Or have you ever been on a date with friends, the couple and you? I always felt like a third wheel…
Three just doesn’t work. In Bible times there were special seats at any banquet or kingdom. The most honored person would sit on the right of the king, or the guest of honor. The second most honored would sit on the left. There simply was no room for the third, no special place. No where to fit in.
So in their planning ahead, a couple of the disciples decide that they want to address that detail right now, before Jesus chases out the Romans and establishes his government. They’re planning ahead…looking out for themselves….thinking about what is best for their families. Looking for significance and comfort through prestige. James and John are brothers, so it makes sense that they get together and leave out Peter. Here is what happens:
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."