Summary: When the Almighty, Omnipotent Creator God asks, "What do you want Me to do for you?", the wise thing would be to give it careful thought before responding.
“James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus 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?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
A nineteenth century saint wrote:
“Grace assures us that all our interests, for time and eternity, have been most fully provided for in the death and resurrection of Christ, and gives us to see that our only business now is to live to the praise of Him who died for us, and rose again.” C.H. MacKintosh
I’ll be coming back to that later on. I wanted to begin with that quote because this passage before us today magnifies a very fundamental defect in mankind, that being, the inherent inability to recognize how diametrically opposed we are to God and His ways at the very foundation of what sin has made of us.
When Adam disobeyed God’s command in the Garden, when he violated the one and only restriction placed upon him by his Creator, he literally turned the human race around backward. The entrance of sin and death into the world through that one act destroyed any possibility of a relationship with a Holy God, because man now, in accordance with his fallen nature, was doomed to think and act absolutely the opposite of the way he was originally designed to think and act.
Men and women, unbelievers and believers alike, prove this every day of their lives when they talk, when they work, when they make a decision, when they express an opinion, that is not first brought before the Throne, based on the Scriptures and both inspired and blessed by the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus said ‘apart from Me you can do nothing’ He meant what He said. When in His rebuke of Peter at Caesarea-Philippi He said, ‘you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s’, He exposed the innate, knee-jerk reaction of all mankind to every area of life, because it is in our nature to set our minds and affections on man’s interests, man’s thinking, the way of this passing world, barring the intervention of the Spirit of Christ in our lives and in our very hearts.
Now I promise that I have some good news for you today. But you won’t appreciate the fullness and the greatness of that good news unless you first understand the bad news.
It’s like the old story of the man who purchased a pair of shoes a size too small.
As the salesman reluctantly boxed up the shoes and took the customer’s money he asked, ‘Why would you want a pair of shoes that will hurt your feet?’ To which the buyer replied, ‘Because the great feeling I get when I take them off is worth all the pain’.
Well, the man needn’t have deliberately put himself in pain by purchasing wrong-sized shoes, but beloved you have to understand today, however painful the news might come to you, that you are a sinner saved by Grace, and if you are not saved then you are just a sinner. You are backwards. You can never come to God, you can never do anything for God, you can never do or say anything that will get you to God until you can say that you have peace with God through your Lord Jesus Christ, who while you were a helpless, sinful, rebel against God, died for you and rose again to give you life.