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Matthew 28
posted August 9, 2012

Revelation 13
posted August 16, 2012

THE REQUEST OF JAMES AND JOHN - September 21, 2008


From Matthew 20 and Mark 10

Sermon of the Week #200838 – September 21, 2008

As Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to fulfill the purpose for His coming into the world, He made the prediction for the third time about His approaching death on the cross when He said, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify: and the third day He shall be raised up.”

Jesus at this time was going on before them: and as He was pressing on before the apostles, they followed Him with fear and amazement. And it was at that time according to Matthew and Mark that we learn of the request of James and John.


The two sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with the request, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand, and one on Thy left hand, in Thy glory.” Their ambitious question under the circumstances should come as no surprise to us when we consider when Jesus chose twelve of His disciples to become apostles, according to Mark 3:17, He surnamed James and John Boanerges, which is Sons of thunder. Boanerges means commotion, and thunder means roar. Evidently Jesus thought of them as two brothers that could keep things in an uproar.

Actually the scripture only gives one example of this trait beginning with Luke 9:51, “When the days were well nigh come that He should be received up, He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face: and they went and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him. And they did not receive Him because His face was set as though He would go to Jerusalem.” And when His disciples, James and John, saw this, they said, “Lord, wilt Thou that we bid fire come down from Heaven and destroy them?”

This is one example of their temperament, knowing that the Lord would have to sleep on the ground all night, especially if the weather was bad. They said, “Lord, just say the word, and we will call down fire out of Heaven and burn the town down.” This is the way it was with the sons of thunder, even though the Lord did rebuke them.

Another reason they may have asked the question about sitting on the right side and left side of the throne of Jesus was according to Matthew. A short time before this Jesus had mentioned the twelve would some day sit upon twelve thrones. Since they were in the twelve, and also because they had been two of the three to see the transfiguration, they supposed they might as well be the two to have the chief seats. Of course, there was Peter, of whom the Lord said, “Blessed art thou.”  So when they asked the Lord for both right and left sides that left no place of prominence for Peter. This should come as no surprise to us when we consider that shortly before this they had asked the Lord, who was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. The Sons of thunder figure they might as well be it. Jesus was thinking about the shame of the cross, and they were thinking about rewards in glory. Jesus was thinking about being mocked, spit upon, a crown of thorns, nails driven through His hands and feet, being betrayed by Judas, dying on the cross naked, and they were talking about wearing royal robes and gold crowns. They were much like us. Jesus was thinking how the crowds would be hollering “Crucify Him,” and we worry why some people don’t like us, and treat us better than they do.

There is one reason, however, that some of us may have agreed about sitting on the right side considering the fact that Jesus Himself said in Matthew 25:1, “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, then will He sit on the throne of His glory, and He will set the sheep on the right side.” The right side is for the conservatives. I am a conservative, because I believe in the virgin birth, the inspiration of the scriptures, Jesus died for my sins, He arose bodily from the grave, and He is coming again.

Another point about the request of James and John according to the version of Matthew 20:20, it was the mother of James and John who made the request to Jesus.  She came and worshipped Him and asking a certain thing of Him. And He said unto her, “What wouldest thou?”  She saith unto Him, “Command that these, my two sons may sit, one on Thy right hand and one on Thy left hand, in Thy kingdom.” We know that mothers always want the best for their sons, so we can understand why she would ask such a blessing for her own sons. Now that we have heard the question, let us consider the answer.


Jesus answered the request of James and John as He gave them the aptitude test. Notice He did not ask James if he was willing to be decapitated? James, are you willing to have your blood poured out, before you can be accounted as an old man? John, are you willing to live a long life into your ninety’s and then be exiled on a rock pile of an island about ten miles long?

He asked them, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and are ye able to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” James and John said, “We are able.” They did not understand what the cup was; it might be good or bad. There is a cup for the wicked in Psalm 11:6, “Upon the wicked shall rain snares, and fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.” They knew the 23rd Psalm said, “My cup runneth over”, or it could have a bad inference such as Jesus would mention later on at Gethsemane, “Let this cup pass away from me.”

The matter of the cup would come up again that night when Judas and the band of soldiers from the chief priests came to arrest Jesus in the garden. Peter drew his sword in defense of Jesus, and Jesus said in John 18:11, “Put up the sword into the sheath: the cup which the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”  Whether it had a good or bad meaning the sons of thunder were ready to say, “We are able.”

Then neither did they understand what a terrible baptism it would be. Jesus referred to it when He said in Luke 12:50, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and am distressed till it be accomplished.”  They knew if Jesus could do it, they would be willing to have fellowship in it.

The Christian today is not exempt from the question of Jesus, “Are ye able to drink the cup?” In 1st Peter 4:13 and 16 the apostle said, “Insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; if ye are reproached for the name of Christ; blessed are ye if any man suffer as a Christian let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name.” Then also Romans 8:17, “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we also might be glorified with Him.” How about 2nd Timothy 2:3 Paul said, “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus?” Then again there is the encouraging word of Paul in Philippians 3:13, “This one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things that are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The question of Jesus is always before the Christian, “Are ye able to drink the cup?”

The gospel song tell of their resolve:

Are ye able said the Master to be crucified with me?

Yea the sturdy dreamers answered,”To the death we follow thee.”

Are ye able still the Master whispers down eternity?

And heroic spirits answer, “Now as then in Galilee yes, we are able,

Our spirits are Thine remold them make us like Thee divine.”

Thy guiding radiance around us shall be

A beacon to God, to faith and loyalty.

Actually they were asking for something they could never have. Hebrews 1:3 tell us: “When Jesus had made purification for sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High.” And then Hebrews 1:13 instructs us further saying, “But of which of the angels saith He at any time, Sit thou on My right hand till I make Thine enemies the foot stool of Thy feet.” Not even Michael who is called the archangel can sit on the right hand of the Majesty on High. Gabriel, who plays a prominent part in the revelation of the will of God to men on earth, cannot sit on the right hand of the Majesty on High. Jesus said, “It is not mine to give but my Father who is in Heaven.” And now after the request there comes the rebuke of Jesus.


Now when the ten heard what James and John had done they were indignant. Each one of them wanted to have the top positions in the Kingdom. Peter and Andrew were sorry that James and John had beaten them to the punch, so Jesus called them together and reminded them that what they were doing was the practice of the heathen. He told them that in the secular world some like to lord it over others.

It is evident today; in the schoolyard, there are always a few bullies, and the bullies will be present all through life. You find them everywhere, people who like to throw their weight around. Jesus pointed out that His apostles were acting like heathen, and then He gave them the identity of the greatest. He said, “Whosoever would be great among you shall be your servant.” And then He said, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” That statement in regards to the Son of man coming to redeem many, tells us of the greatest missionary endeavor in the history of the world.

Paul sums it up with his statement in Philippians 2:5-8, “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, being obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.”

We may admire the modern-day missionary who takes his growing family and leaves America to go to a third-world country as a missionary; but that is a far cry from Jesus who left Heaven where squadrons of angels were eager to carry out His every command, and come to a place that blasphemes His name. Think of it. He left a throne and came here to a stable. The Son of man came to give His life a ransom for many.

We hear many times of people who have been shanghaied, and held for ransom. The ransom is the price to buy back the person who was stolen. The price of ransom is usually set at a high price. The human race was shanghaied in the Garden of Eden, and the rest of the story in the Bible is the account of the price that was paid for man’s redemption.

Peter gives us the best description for the price that was paid for redemption when he said in 1st Peter 1:18-19, “Knowing that you were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver and gold, from the vain manner of your lives handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ.”

No one ever suffered as Jesus on the cross; all the pain and suffering of His body was small indeed compared to the agony of His soul. He tasted of death once for every man. Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians 5:21, “Him who knew no sin was made to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus on the cross, felt as though He had committed every sin ever committed. Such a catalogue of sins as mentioned in 1st Corinthians 6:9-12, “Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abuses of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of Heaven.”

Then Paul tells of the ransom paid for our souls when he told in Timothy 2:6, “Christ Jesus who gave Himself a ransom for all.” Our sins can be compared to the flood in the days of Noah. The waters that covered the earth according to Genesis 7:19, “Prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills that were under the whole Heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits did the waters prevail; more than twenty feet, and the mountains were covered.” In like manner the flood of the blood of Jesus can cover all the sins, no matter how great of every one who has ever lived. Because of the blood of Christ there will be former murderers, drug pushers, whore mongers, rapists, child abusers, who will walk the golden sidewalks of Heaven.

The tragedy of it all can be read in the words of Jesus in John 5:40, “And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life.” He Ransomed Me is an old gospel song:

There’s a sweet and blessed story Of the Christ who came from glory.

Just to rescue me from sin and misery He in loving kindness sought me.

And from sin and shame He brought me-hallelujah Jesus ransomed me.

From the depths of sin and sadness, To the heights of joy and gladness.

Jesus lifted me in mercy full and free.With His precious blood he bought me

When I knew Him not he sought me And in love divine He ransomed me.

And now for us today the question can be asked, “Are we able to drink the cup, and be baptized with the baptism of Jesus?” We certainly cannot drink of the cup of the sorrow that Jesus drank, and we cannot be baptized with the baptism of His suffering on the cross.

As Christians we can drink of the cup that reminds us of the prophecy that He shall be called a man of sorrows. The cup Jesus referred to when He said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins.”

And are you able as an un-forgiven sinner to be baptized in the baptism that reproduces in us His death, burial, and resurrection? As Paul said in Romans 6:3-6, “All we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him therefore through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we might also walk in newness of life. For, if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” The Master is still asking, “Are you able to be baptized with My baptism? Are you able to drink the cup?”