Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.…
Christ does not put aside the granting of places at His right and left hand as not being within His province, but states the principles and conditions on which He does make such a grant. Again, our Lord does not put aside the prayer of His apostles as if they were seeking an impossible thing. He does not say, "You are asking what cannot be." He does say, "There are men for whom it is prepared of My Father." He does not condemn the prayer as indicating a wrong state of mind. He did not rebuke their passion for reward. They should have the reward if they fulfilled the conditions.
I. The principle, THAT SOME WILL BE NEARER CHRIST THAN OTHERS IN THAT HEAVENLY KINGDOM. Varied degrees of reward are prepared by God. They asked for earth; Christ answered for heaven. Heaven is a place. the corporeality of our future life is essential to the perfection of it. Christ will wear for ever a human frame. That involves locality, circumstances, external occupations. But if we stop there we have no true idea of the glory that makes the blessedness. For what is heaven? Likeness to God! Love, purity, fellowship with Him; the condition of the soul. Hence heaven can be no dead level. All will be like Jesus; this does not exclude infinite variety. Perfect bliss belongs to each; but the capacity to receive may differ. Does not the idea of endless progress involve that variety in degree. There are those for whom it is prepared of His Father, that they shall sit in special nearness to Him.
II. These words rightly understood assert the truth, which, at first sight, our English rendering seems to make them contradict, viz., THAT CHRIST IS THE GIVER TO EACH OF THESE VARIOUS DEGREES OF GLORY AND BLESSEDNESS. "It is not mine to give, save to them for whom it is prepared." Then it is thine to give it to them. To deny this is to destroy all the foundations upon which our hopes rest. There is nothing within the compass of God's love to bestow of which Christ is not the Giver. We read that He is the Judge of the whole earth. He clothes in white robes. Christ is the bestower of the royalties of heaven.
III. THESE GLORIOUS PLACES ARE NOT GIVEN TO MERE WISHING, NOR BY HERE ARBITRARY WILL, but a piece of favouritism. There are conditions which must precede such elevation. Some people imagine the desire enough. Our wishes are meant to impel us to the appropriate forms of energy, by which they can be realized. When a pauper becomes a millionaire by wishing that he were rich, when ignorance becomes learning by standing in a library and wishing that all the contents of the books were in its head, there will be seine hope that the gates of heaven will fly open to your desire. Does your wish lead you to the conditions': Some of heaven's characteristics attract you. You wish to escape punishment for sin; you would like rest after toil; do you wish to be pure? The happiness draws you? does the holiness? Would it be joyful to be near Christ?
IV. THESE GLORIOUS PLACES ARE GIVEN AS THE RESULT OF A DIVINE PREPARATION. The Divine Father and Son have unity of will and work in this respect. There is a twofold preparation.
1. That is the eternal counsel of the Divine love "prepared for you before the foundation of the world."
2. The realization of that counsel in time. His death and entrance into heaven made ready for us the eternal mansions. Faith in Christ alone, the measure of our faith, and growing Christ-likeness here will be the measure of our glory hereafter.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.