On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
Whatever We Ask
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Mark 10:35-37, NIV)
You and I have done the same thing as these two disciples. We want Jesus to do for us whatever we ask.
I usually tell Jesus specifically what I want. James and John were smarter. They first kept what they desired to themselves, choosing instead to see if Jesus would write them a blank check. Maybe they thought they could slide a request by Jesus since they knew He loved them; or perhaps the fact that the Lord had just talked about His death made them think He might be vulnerable to a large request.
The good thing here is they had confidence the Lord could do whatever they asked.
If you could ask Jesus one thing, what would it be? Do you believe He has the power to grant it?
Jesus responded to James and John with a question rather than an answer. If He had been a mere man, He could have said, “I don’t know if I can do anything for you, but tell Me, what’s on your mind?”
Had He been a self-centered person, Jesus could have responded: “You are asking the wrong question — it’s not what I can do for you, but what you can do for Me.”
Implicitly, however, Jesus’ question indicates He could grant anything. James and John could ask, largely because they knew from following Jesus that He possessed immense power.
His question still penetrates to this day, for He is searching our hearts and asking us, “What can I do for you?” The real issue is whether we ask rightly. James and John didn’t.
We all roundly criticize these two disciples for trying to edge their way to the front. They have sharp elbows. You can see what’s going on if you look at the listing of the Twelve.
In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Peter, Andrew, James and John are given in that order, with the two sets of brothers belonging together. That’s how Jesus first called them — in pairs. In Mark and Acts, the order is Peter, James, John and Andrew. The latter order is consistent with the fact that Peter, James and John are the inner three — with Jesus at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (5:37), His Transfiguration (9:2), and Gethsemane (14:33).
In making this request to Jesus, James and John were not only trying to jump ahead of Andrew. They were also trying to bounce Peter — who is always listed first.
So, there you have it! Even Jesus’ first disciples were not exempt from striving for position. No wonder we see this problem replicated in the Church through the centuries.
But let’s also consider the positive side of James and John’s request. Let’s give them some credit.
First, they wanted to be close to Jesus. Don’t we all want that? In the age to come, wouldn’t you rather be near Him than up somewhere in a remote gallery looking on?
Second, Jesus had just made the third announcement of His approaching death. Their request tells us that they remained unshaken in their belief that Jesus indeed has a kingdom and glory to offer! Do we also believe that about Him?
A prayer of response
Lord, help me to balance my desire to be near You against the selfish ambition to leap over someone else.
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark