When they made their special request to Jesus, James and John weren’t in any kind of crisis. In fact, things were looking up. They were heading toward Jerusalem with Jesus. The crowds were getting bigger. They were getting close to Jesus. Never mind that he was talking about dying before entering into his kingdom. They heard that he was heading for a kingdom and they wanted a piece, a place.
Because that’s what we’re promised, right? If we are close to Jesus, everything will be happy. Everything will be good. Everything will be golden. Everything will go our way. We will prosper.
There are some differences in the stories. One account says it was their mother who asked. Another account says it was them. But whichever, the conversation started boldly: “Teacher, would you do whatever we ask?”
That’s what we’re taught that God will do, right? That whatever we ask for, in Jesus name, we’ll get?
Jesus said, “What do you want me to do?’
The question was simple: “When you get the kingdom established, can we sit right next to you?”
Can we be close in the official portraits? Can we be your right-hand guys? Can we bask in your glow?
Here’s the funny thing. Some of us have read the gospels. We know how often it says that Peter, James, and John went with Jesus. They were the inner circle.
But it looks like they want to have their place in the inner circle made official. They want a promise from Jesus that they are special.
So Jesus gives them a test: “Can you drink from my cup? Can you go through my baptism?” What he knew was that in the next few days he would drink from the cup of death. “Of course,” they said.
What he promised, what they experienced, is death. James as the first of the disciples to die, John as the last. And they never got the assurance of their seats.
But they did get an assignment. “Don’t worry about ruling each other. Serve each other. Like I do.”
When we ask for blessings, we often are offered the same blessing Jesus got, to live and die for others. That may be why we don’t hear God sometimes. Because what he says is hard to hear.