Matthew 20: 20-23
Matthew returns to the discussion of who is first and who is last. Wealth does not make you first or necessarily shows God’s favor. God will reward us ultimately, 100 fold, but we live in the kingdom of this world. Eternal rewards are not earned but given as gifts. Matthew now shares another scenario with a slightly different twist. The mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, pleads that her sons might sit at his right and left hand as Jesus establishes his kingdom. We, the readers, realize the mounting excitement as Jesus enters Jerusalem. Surely the kingdom of heaven is about to be ushered in and life will be set right.
From my life in Kenya, I would not be surprised that a third party speaks for the two disciples. That a woman approached Jesus expecting to be heard is probably worth a sermon. But what struck me is the question, the request, she made. A mother’s heart wants her sons honored. My mother’s heart wants the best for my children. I want the best for my children and do not wish for any of them trials. Jesus seems to be answering in two ways. We don’t understand what we are asking for and we do not understand all the extenuating circumstance.
Mrs. Zebedee does not know the implications of the honor of sitting at the right and left hand. She sees the honor but does not see the price to be paid. Could it be that God does not give us what we ask for because he knows the repercussions of the granting is more than we could bear? I think so. Sometimes his “no’s” are a way of protecting us from our misplaced desires and ourselves. Secondly he seems to be saying that what we are asking for is not the right fit because that specific honor is prepared for someone else. If he granted our prayer, we would not be happy or fulfilled. My desires for those around me, though, often lack perspective and understanding of their character and extenuating circumstances.
As we pray today for others, may we present our requests to God “with open hands.” That means that I look to the giver to know what is best and open my heart with gratitude for what I am about to receive. James: 5-8 reminds us:
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
May we pray with humility today recognizing our shortsightedness.