Summary: Willing to wash feet? Big, dirty, calloused, stinky feet? Willing to let someone else take the credit for the good job you did? What if that is what following Jesus looks like? Are you willing?

What’s It Like To Follow Jesus?

Matthew 20:20-28

What’s it like to follow Jesus? What is my life, my attitude, supposed to be and to look like?

There were a couple of things I noticed while I was studying this passage this past week. There is a theme here that I had not noticed before, and it is this: God’s ordainings are providential, purposeful, and prepared in advance for those He has ordained them for.

In our text today, we find the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, coming and bowing down to Jesus, and asking a special favor of Him for her sons—asking for special recognition and reward.

Now, before we allow ourselves to judge this kind lady too harshly, let us ask ourselves which of us as a loving parent doesn’t want the best for our children? In fact, which of us doesn’t desire for ourselves the best of whatever is available? Do we willingly choose the shriveled piece of steak, or the juicy one?

Do we want to be thought of highly by our employer and be given the big raise, or would we rather that honor go to someone else? Do we see our circumstances as the perfect place for us, even when they are depressing and even dire, or do we wish those difficulties were true in someone else’s life?

So, too, you see, when it comes to our children, we are very much like Salome, wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John, sister of Mary the mother of Jesus, and aunt, then, of Jesus Himself. Who doesn’t want their son or daughter chosen as the starting pitcher, or the captain of the cheerleading squad, or the concert master of the orchestra?

And, too, which child doesn’t want their mom or dad to want those things for them, and doesn’t want their parents to think they are great and grand and worthy of such honors?

Mark’s account of this interchange, recorded in Mark 10:30-35, does not mention the mother. There are a couple of schools of thought on the reasons for these variations in the telling, neither of which seems significant to me. The main reason for that is that both accounts tell us, “And when the ten heard it, they became indignant with the brothers.” The other disciples knew that, if the brothers weren’t behind this request for preferential treatment and high honors, they were at least a party to it.

That brings us to the main point, I think, of this passage and to the question with which I opened our time together: What’s it like to follow Jesus?

The sons of Zebedee, as well as their mother, and even the other disciples as well, were all convinced that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah and that He would soon bring His kingdom to fruition. They assumed, as did the rest of the Jews of that day, that that kingdom would be political and military, social and economical.

Hence the request for the seats of power, one on the right hand of the Messiah, the other on His left. The seat on the right designated the second in line for power, while the seat on the left indicated the third in line.

Jesus’ reply is revealing: “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” He was well aware that the kingdom He was bringing was that of the Suffering Servant, not that of the Conquering King.

Sometimes we are simply glib in how we pray and what we pray for—we do not know what it is that we are asking. If we really gave thought to our prayers, they would not be thoughtless, they would not be reckless, and they would not be foolish.

We’ve all heard the warning, “Don’t pray for patience!” Why is that? Because we know that James 1:2-3 says that the testing of our faith produces patience and endurance.

Had they known exactly what Jesus was going to be going through a few short days from then, do you think they would have asked to go along with Him? Do you think they would have consciously sought a portion in what He was to endure? I highly doubt it myself.

This reminds me of a country song that was popular several years ago. Not theologically sound, I grant you, but very much to the point, nonetheless. The chorus contained this line: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayer.”

Now, we all know that God answers every prayer—no is an answer. But, you get the point, don’t you? What if God had given us what we had asked for? What if God had given us that job or had allowed us to marry that person or had made sure we got to go to that place or had let us engage in that activity? What would the result have been?

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