Mark 10:35-37 35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’ 36 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. 37 They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’
Nehemiah 5:14-19 14 Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year – twelve years – neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. 15 But the earlier governors – those preceding me – placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land.
17 Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. 18 Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.
19 Remember me with favour, my God, for all I have done for these people.
We know that in our day, many long for control and influence. But even before the cross, the true colours of two of Jesus’ disciples had already begun seeing the kingdom of God as a political arena of position and leverage. We are intrigued not just because James and John wanted power (after all, just about everyone wants that). What is intriguing is that James and John actually could have thought Jesus would grant it to them.
In Matthew 20:21, the Gospel writer tells us that it was the mother of James and John who made this elitist request. Behind James and John’s desire for power was a pushy mum. Perhaps these aspiring young men wanted to be the "vice presidents" of Jesus’ kingdom because they felt this would make their mother proud of them.
But let us not lay all the blame on their mother. It is a real possibility that James and John wanted their special friendship to be of some "useful" advantage to them in the kingdom of God. Still, it was sheer folly to press this. Jesus had no special friends, and granting people the right to govern others was never his agenda. Jesus wants no one to think of his kingdom as a place for political manoeuvring. We do not accept Christ merely to control others.
Easter is coming, Lord, and with it the reminder that you, who already possessed your rightful place as King, abandoned your realm to accept the limitations of ours. It is difficult not to crave power in this competitive world; but please, Lord, help me crave the pleasure of your company instead. Ruling over others is far less significant than loving my life in your presence.