“Excuse me, but you can’t sit there. These seats are reserved.” Slightly embarrassed (or at least I was) we moved our seats. We barely settled in our next seating before we heard, “You can’t sit there either.” To my chagrin, we had been asked to move a second time. After all, we were visitors, how could we possibly know that we were sitting in someone’s special seat?
I guess certain seats are considered to be very prestigious for the individuals who seek to occupy them. Things like that don’t matter much to the rest of us; we just want to worship God. The thirst for fame, recognition, and power entice and seduce them to shameless levels of self-promotion and agenda-pushing. 2,000 years ago, things were not weren’t much different than they are today.
Ambition and the desire for recognition had a vice grip on the Sons of Thunder. They were among the first four disciples to follow Christ. These two may have felt entitled and favored because of they were “first responders” to the call. (Matthew 4:18-22) In addition, only Peter, John, and James had witnessed the transfiguration of Christ, the visitation of the prophets Moses and Elias, and heard the audible voice of God affirming His Son from His holy habitation.
Sometimes, we erroneously think our shared experiences and length of service qualify us for special privileges or concessions. James and John in particular seemed to have forgotten the parable of the first and last reversal of order. Having the advantage of intimately knowing the Christ was not enough; choosing rather to argue who would be the most esteemed among them.
As Jesus’ ministry on earth was drawing to a close it was His desire, as detailed in Scripture, that the disciples understand His purpose on earth was to serve. Near to the time of His crucifixion, Jesus teaches them yet another lesson on the value of humility. James and John pushed entitlement to its limit by asking Jesus to grant them to sit one at His right and one at His left in the kingdom.
It seemed as if these two brothers were confident their request would be honored until, Jesus responded,
You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism [of affliction] with which I am baptized? And they replied to Him, We are able. And Jesus told them, the cup that I drink you will drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized, But to sit at My right hand or at My left hand is not Mine to give; but [it will be given to those] for whom it is ordained and prepared. (Mark 10:38-40 AMP)
He finishes off by teaching greatness is not measured the stature of man, but by the garment of humility he wears as he serves others.
As believers, it is counter-productive for us to assume we deserve to be in a particular place or position based upon what we have done. The desire to take an abbreviated path to success is the lure of an impatient and prideful spirit. Manipulating your way to get what you want is far from reward for being faithful, dedicated and committed.
In Philippians 3:9-11, the Apostle Paul gives us an earthly focus for heavenly goals:
- That we are found in His righteousness through the faith of Christ which is of God; know him and fully understand fully the power of his resurrection.
- To have communion for his sufferings, able to comprehend his death.
- Above all, that we live with Him eternally.
Godly promotion is not determined by man. Our Father has the final say for whom He chooses to place in positions of leadership, authority, and honor. The epistle of James assures believers that if we resist the temptation to achieve by ungodly methods, we will receive the crown of life as our reward. Not only will we have a crown, but we won’t need to move; we will have seats reserved just for us!
See also: Matthew 20:20-28