Jesus’ Life and Ministry
The Disciples Argue as Jesus’ Death Nears
JESUS and his disciples are near the Jordan River, where they cross from the district of Perea into Judea. Many others are traveling with them to the Passover of 33 C.E., which is only a week or so away.
Jesus is walking on ahead of the disciples, and they are amazed at his bold determination. Recall that a few weeks earlier when Lazarus died and Jesus was about to go from Perea into Judea, Thomas encouraged the others: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Recall also that after Jesus resurrected Lazarus, the Sanhedrin laid plans to kill him. No wonder that fear grips the disciples as they now enter Judea again.
To prepare them for what lies ahead, Jesus takes the 12 off privately and tells them: “Here we are, advancing up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and will deliver him to men of the nations, and they will make fun of him and will spit upon him and scourge him and kill him, but three days later he will rise.”
This is the third time in recent months that Jesus has told his disciples about his death and resurrection. And although they listen to him, they fail to comprehend. Perhaps it is because they believe in the restoration on earth of the kingdom of Israel, and they are looking forward to enjoying glory and honor in an earthly kingdom with Christ.
Among the Passover-bound travelers is Salome, the mother of the apostles James and John. Jesus has called these men “Sons of Thunder,” no doubt because of their fiery dispositions. For some time these two have harbored the ambition to be prominent in Christ’s Kingdom, and they have made their desires known to their mother. She now approaches Jesus in their behalf, bows before him, and requests a favor.
“What do you want?” Jesus asks.
“Give the word that these my two sons may sit down, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”
Realizing the source of the request, Jesus says to James and John: “You men do not know what you are asking for. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?”
“We can,” they answer. Even though Jesus has just told them that he faces terrible persecution and finally execution, they apparently do not comprehend that this is what he means by “the cup” he is about to drink.
Nevertheless, Jesus tells them: “You will indeed drink my cup, but this sitting down at my right hand and at my left is not mine to give, but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
In time the other ten apostles learn what James and John have requested, and they are angry. Perhaps James and John were prominent in the earlier argument among the apostles about who is the greatest. Their present request reveals that they have not applied the counsel Jesus has given on this matter. Sadly, their desire for prominence is still strong.
So to deal with this latest controversy and the ill will it has created, Jesus calls the 12 together. Counseling them lovingly, he says: “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them and the great men wield authority over them. This is not the way among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.”
Jesus has set the example they should imitate, as he explains: “Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” Jesus not only has ministered in behalf of others but will do so to the extent of dying for mankind! The disciples need that same Christlike disposition of desiring to serve rather than to be served and to be a lesser one rather than to be in a position of prominence. Matthew 20:17-28; Mark 3:17; 9:33-37; 10:32-45; Luke 18:31-34; John 11:16.
◆ Why does fear now grip the disciples?
◆ How does Jesus prepare his disciples for what lies ahead?
◆ What request is made of Jesus, and how are the other apostles affected?
◆ How does Jesus deal with the problem among his apostles?