As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves,
and said to them on the way,
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests
and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day.”
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her, “What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left,
this is not mine to give but is for those
for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
* * * * * * * *
Today’s gospel tells us not only about the misplaced ambition of James and John, who in this gospel—unlike in Mark’s, have their mother make the odd request for them. It also shows us how they completely misunderstood what kind of king Jesus was meant to be. His was not a worldly kingdom of power and wealth, but one of love that was willing to suffer and die to save the world.
Nothing that Jesus said seemed to be able to rid them of the idea of a Messiah of earthly power and glory. Still, when we have said all that can be said against James and John, this gospel tells us one shining thing about them--confused as they might be, they still believed in Jesus.
They could still connect glory with this carpenter who had incurred the enmity and bitter opposition of the religious leaders and who was apparently heading for death on the cross. There is amazing confidence and loyalty in these two men. They may have been misguided, confused and ambitious, but their hearts were in the right place. They had faith that in the end Jesus would triumph.
The story of James and John is a reminder to us as well. While we may sometimes fail to understand and accept the challenging and difficult things about our faith, we would do well to cast our lot with Jesus and remain faithful to him as James and John did