JAMES AND JOHN want [Jesus] to commit to doing whatever they want without engaging him in relationship. Jesus doesn’t bite; he makes no promises. Nevertheless, he asks them the same question he later asks Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” James and John are looking for what they call “glory.” They’re looking for prestige, power, and reputation—quite a different definition from how Jesus sees glory. Two things seem to bother Jesus: (1) Jesus knows that feeding James’s and John’s desire for these things won’t actually help them at all. Jesus only gives good gifts, and this would be a bad one. (2) Jesus knows they’re barking up the wrong tree. If they want prestige, Jesus’ “glory” is hardly the place they’re going to find it. Later, in Mark 15:27, we see that the people on Jesus’ right and left are the two criminals crucified with him, proclaiming to us that Jesus is in his glory on the cross. This, presumably, is not what James and John are looking for. So Jesus replies with some clarifying questions about what James and John really want. He turns their attention from what they want to what’s worth wanting. How might Jesus do this for us as well?
Let Me Ask You a Question: Conversations with Jesus (Upper Room Books, 2018)
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
—Mark 10:35-38 (NRSV)
Prayer for the Week
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(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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