Tag Archives: keys to the kingdom

Climbing the Ladder of Success


https://youtu.be/jJ_Ly6-jcEA  Climbing Higher by David Krienke

Jesus has twelve men He had called to follow Him.  Two were especially anxious to advance to positions of importance and their Mom even got into the conversation.  There is NOTHING new under heaven!  Let’s look into Matthew’s gospel and see what the desire was.

climbing the ladder of success

We read in Matthew  4:19  “Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”  Two brothers, former fishermen Jesus had told He will make “fishers of men.”  (Matthew 4:19)

Now, approaching the end of His ministry, we discover what these two are after.

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:20-22)

 Mom wants positions of authority for her two boys.  Mark, the gospel writer, sheds a bit more light on this encounter:

“ Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

It would seem the mother of these two disciples has had a conversation with her sons and all three approach Jesus to ask for a “favor.”  They desire, and Mom concurs, positions of right and left hand man are appropriate and they want to be first in line to make the request before these other ten men do.  You know, “the early bird gets the worm.”  Right?  Well, NOT in this case.

Jesus is quick to point out, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  (Mark 10:38)

Jesus is pointing out His cup is filled with wrath and His baptism is with sweat and blood–His own.  His cup is not a cup of sweet wine and His baptism is not a dip in the Jordan River.  That was the past.  The future will be far different.  He will be broken and poured out.  They would need the attitude of Paul when he wrote to the Philippians, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.”  (Philippians 2:17)

What puzzles me is these disciples are all on their way to Jerusalem with Jesus and they are afraid and are surprised by Jesus intentionality and determination in going to Jerusalem where they KNOW Jesus is a wanted man.  They fear for their lives, but they are jockeying for position.  Jesus tells them He will die a humiliating death.  (Mark 10:32-34)

The kingdom they are speaking of is the earthly kingdom of Christ, not His heavenly kingdom.  The Jews were looking for a Savior from the Romans not from sin.  They were willing to help Him set up a government to overthrow the Romans who were oppressing them but not die to save the souls of men.  At least not yet!  But Jesus tells them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”  (Mark 10:39-40)

 This is when the contention, Luke calls it a dispute, among the disciples get heated.  Mark continues to paint a picture of all that is taking place:

“And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:41-45, Luke 22:24-26)

Like the tender teacher that He is, He calls them to gather round and He tells them all “you will get to be a servant just like He is.  Servant not ruler.  Bummer!  Jesus said, following and knowing Him would not win them popularity or prestige or position.  Following Him would cost them everything, their very lives.

I love how Jesus did not get angry as these men did what came naturally to their flesh.  This was a temptation of the pride of life.  I love He did not scold a mother for desiring the best for her children:  In Him there is no condemnation.  (Romans 8:1)  The enemy used those He loved to tempt Jesus with setting up His earthly kingdom.  The first attempt in the wilderness did not work, so he came back to try a different tactic.  (Luke 4:13)

Can we be like Jesus and put service before the accolades of man?  Can we serve others rather than ask them to serve us?  Can we stoop low so others can see over us to catch a glimpse of the Master?

I am thankful we got to meet the parents of James and John!  They left their father fishing.  Mom tagged along with the boys and Jesus–helicopter parenting is not new.  Mom’s influence in their lives was profound.  The more we dig into the Scriptures the more we can see the life Jesus led on almost a daily basis.  He was tempted in all ways like we are but without sin.  He dealt with families, squabbles among the team, harassment by the establishment, and all the daily hassles we face.

Lord, Father in Heaven,

Holy is Your name.  You are too wonderful for words.  You see our weaknesses and are filled with compassion and mercy.   Take these lessons and bury this truth in our hearts; we too can live the life of the Savior if we keep our eyes on YOU!  May we come into Your Presence not only to seek what You can do for us, but to worship You in Spirit and in truth.   Father, help us discern evil, give wisdom, and lead us one step at a time toward our divine purpose.  Father, we are worthy of love and belonging,  because we were created in Your image for communion and chosen by You.  Father, we cannot fully comprehend why You sent Your one and only Son to pay our ransom from slavery and You set us free to serve others as we have been served.  Thank You for giving us a place at Your table.  How we praise You for this most precious gift for it cost You everything!!  We lift this heartfelt desire in the name of the one and only Jesus the Christ our Savior and Lord.


Treading in His Service,