Happy Mother’s Day week! We all love our moms and we love the way they are on our side and push us to be better than we really are. They are fans, disciplinarians, cooks, huggers, and they pour themselves into us. Moms come in all forms, but one thing that is a standard of proper society and just plain being a good mom…Moms take up for their children. I was reading in Mathews account of the Gospel and came across this story…and I must admit that I event hesitate to share it on Mother’s day week but I often share from what I’m reading and so here I go… It is from Matthew 20
20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked.
She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” 22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” 23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”
24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Now, I don’t mean to be rude or to read too much into what is happening in this text, but the first line strikes me as something “so motherly.” I mean, of course a mom would come to Jesus and ask such a thing…she wants her boys to succeed and she wants her boys to do something meaningful. She just wants her two boys to be in “places of honor” next to Jesus. It is so cute…and so destructive…
While Jesus doesn’t really address mom and goes straight to the James and John with his questions about drinking from cups of suffering, the problem is that the other ten disciples can’t believe that James and John would ask such a thing…or maybe they are jealous that they asked it first. The thing that I find so intriguing is Jesus’ words to the fighting disciples, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.” And there, in the middle of that conversation was the mother of James and John, who like other mothers, was a personification of what Jesus had just taught to his disciples. It was the men of the ancient world that had set up the “lording over” system and fought the wars and had the authority. It was the women, the moms, that served the household and had the servant’s heart. I might be flirting with stereotypes here, and I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule; but I reference the specific setting of the Roman Empire during the first century in and around Jerusalem.
So, here is mom going to Jesus, the Lord and authority, asking if her sons might be a special part of that system. Sure it is misguided, but it is also so sweet. It is sweet because within the request you can see the respect she has for Jesus and the love she has for her boys. It is misguided because she forgot that there are other sons sitting around their Lord and she was only interested in the success of her boys…not the whole team of boys.
Poor James and John, an object lesson to this day of what not to do - don’t seek the honor, seek the service. Poor mom of James and John, who thought it was a great idea to ask Jesus this. Poor “us,” if we think that we are superior to those around us and have attitudes that portray such a falsehood.
I thank God for this story, and for the moms who understand that the success of their children is wrapped up in the success of the TEAM around their children. In my home, my mom (and my dad) were fans of the team of boys surrounding me. When I played football, I could hear mom cheering on my friends. When I sat the bench in basketball, my parents were at every game cheering the guys on the court. I am so thankful for those who raise a community and not just their family…and I am thankful that although my parents weren’t perfect they understood that my success was wrapped up in my community’s success. I pray that God might give me some of that as I raise my kids.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.