“What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In another section of the Bible it says that it was the mother of James and John who approached Jesus with the request that her sons sit on either side of Him in His glory. Parents always want what is best for their children. They want them to have a good education, decent friends, a good job, married with children. They want the children to have quality lives—not wanting for anything. James’ and John’s mother was no different. She was ambitious and there is nothing wrong with that. She was looking out for her sons. She wanted them to have the best. However, Jesus told her sons that they did not realize what they were asking. He asked if they could drink the cup He was drinking—it is the cup of suffering. We have to be careful about what we ask for. They were looking at the glory but not at what they would have to go through to get there.
We want to be at the top but we have to be aware of what it takes to get there. Jesus had to undergo a lot of suffering—severe beating, being spat on, ridiculed, rejected, betrayed and denied before He was in His glory. He had to go through hell in order to gain victory over death. He had to die a humiliating death before He was raised from the dead and able to sit on the right hand of God. James and John had to know that in order to gain the glory they wanted, they would first have to drink the cup that Jesus drank. They said they could drink the cup and they did. Herod killed James for his faith and John was exiled on the island of Patmos. However, Jesus made it clear to them that sitting on either side of Him was not His to grant. Those places belonged to those for whom they were prepared.
When the other disciples heard about the request, they were angry with the brothers. They too wanted to have high positions in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus set them all straight. In order for a person to be great, he or she must be a servant first. Jesus, the Son of God, lowered Himself in order to serve people and in due time, He was exalted. He explained His purpose here on earth—to serve and not to be served and to give His life for many. Those who would be considered great are those who put God and others first and self last. They would gladly serve others. Prestige and recognition would be the last things on their minds. For them the greatest honour would be to serve mankind. This is the kind of attitude Jesus wanted His disciples to have back then and it is the attitude He wants us to have today. The best request you could ask of God is, “Lord, use me.” This is a request God is always happy to grant.