Salome's Petition for Zebedee's Sons
Matthew 20:20-28
Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.…

This strange petition must have operated in a twofold way upon our Lord. On the one hand, it must have made it more clear than ever to his mind that nothing but his death and departure from this earth could dissipate the hopes of an earthly kingdom cherished by even the best of his followers. On the other hand, it gave him a most melancholy exhibition of the kind of men whom he must leave behind him to found his Church. Yet in our Lord's reply there is no trace of anger, of contempt, or even of disappointment, but only of tenderness. It is the language of a father to his child, who begs to be allowed to go with him on a perilous expedition. No man can by any possibility make this life easy to himself and yet find himself next to Christ in all that constitutes the glory of his character and work. Nothing daunted, the two brothers promptly declare that what Jesus can endure they also can endure. They were prepared for any risks such as they considered were inevitable in a popular rising; they had made up their minds to follow their Master to the end. Our Lord's answer might seem to imply that; it is possible for men to share his experience here, and yet not be with him eternally. Manifestly this is an impossible meaning. What our Lord meant was merely to direct the thoughts of his disciples to the fact that he was not an arbitrary Prince who might rule as he pleased, advancing his own favourites to high posts, and bestowing large rewards on those he loved, but was rather the Administrator of an inflexibly righteous and impartial government, in which all things were regulated according to fixed law. He has in his gift all that is worth working for; but all he has he must give to those who in the judgment of the Supreme (that is really) are worthy of them. No doubt he was exceptionally attached to James and John; all that friend can ask of friend he was delighted to give; but he could not reverse moral law and upset moral order in their favour. We argue as these men did: "Christ loves us; all will be well. He wishes to honour us; we shall be honoured." We refuse to consider that in God's government high position simply means high character, and nearness to Christ is but another name for likeness to Christ. A father may desire nothing more earnestly than that his two sons take their places in life at his right hand and at his left; but he knows perfectly well that this can only be if his sons fall in with certain conditions. So Christ cannot promote you irrespective of what you are. Our neglect of this law appears in our prayers. Character has an organic integrity and a consecutive growth as a tree has. But we ask God to give us fruit without either branch, blossom, or time. We wish ability to accomplish certain objects before we have the fundamental graces out of which that ability can alone spring. When we are suddenly put to shame through our lack of Christian temper, courage, or charity, we as suddenly ask Christ for the grace we need, apparently supposing that we have just to give the order and put on the ready made habit. In such a case we might hear our Lord's voice saying to us, "Ye know not what ye ask. These things I can give only to those who are prepared for them, and for whom they are prepared." Can you endure all that is required for the formation of these habits? You ask for humility: do you consider that in doing so you pray for humiliation, for failure, mortified vanity, disappointed hopes, the reproach of men, and the feeling that you are worthy of darker accusations than any that men can bring against you? You ask to be useful in the world: but can you drink of Christ's cup? can you take your stand by his side, abandoning your own pleasure and profit for the sake of the ungrateful? And yet he does not daunt you with impracticable requirements, he would not discourage you from high aims, but would have you count the cost, so that, understanding something of the difficulties before you, your resolve to succeed may become more determined and eager, your prayer more real and urgent. In our prayers we are sometimes too general. Through indifference or want of thought, we pray in general terms for blessings which are recognized by all as the proper subjects of prayer. The fault of the sons of Zebedee lay in an opposite direction; and yet with all this definiteness of naming the precise posts they aspired to in the new kingdom, they had not been at pains to fathom the real purport of their request. We also have sometimes the appearance of definite knowledge without the reality. But our Lord takes occasion further to tell his disciples (vers. 25-28) that greatness in his kingdom consists not in getting service, but in doing service; not in having servants, but in being servants. In the kingdom of Christ the throne was really the cross; it was that deepest humiliation and most devoted service of men which gave Christ his tree power over us all. The greatness he won for himself, and to which he invites us, is power to do without the things we naturally crave; to forego worldly honour and the applause of men, to hold comfort and ease very cheap, and to make nothing of money and possessions; it is power to put ourselves at the disposal of a good cause, and to be of service to those who need our service. - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

WEB: Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, kneeling and asking a certain thing of him.

Salome's Petition for Her Two
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