Following Jesus 17

Are you like James? 

Followers of Jesus who are like James are ambitious and goal orientated. To be ambitious means to be determined; one who is constantly striving, motivated and single minded. This is how James thought. This is how James lived. 

Matthew 20:20-24 gives us an example of James’ ambitions and goals.

The mother of James and John, and possibly a sister of the Master’s mother (John 19:25), apparently prompted by her two sons because of the family relationship, now speaks for them. “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

The “something” put forward as a small matter was simply the choice of the two chief thrones promised by Jesus (Matthew 19:28). What was the Lord’s response? 

Jesus said in Matthew 20:22,”You do not know what you are asking.” How often is that the case? We ask things for yourselves.” We make selfish requests. We want what we want and not what the Lord wills. 

Jesus then asked the brothers if they were able to drink from the cup that He was about to drink? This refers to suffering on behalf of Christ as Christ would suffer on behalf of them and all of His disciples. James and John responded that they would and were able. This is amazing proof of their ignorance and self-confidence. Ambition had blinded their eyes. They had not caught the spirit of martyrdom. 

“Ye shall drink” Jesus said to them (Matthew 20:23). Christ’s cup was martyrdom. Jesus was speaking of His coming trials and death as Judas would betray Him and Jesus would die on a cross (Matthew 26:39-42). 

James and John both replied, “We can!” Jesus indicated they would indeed share the cup of suffering and death with Him. James would become the first of the Twelve to meet a martyr’s death (Acts 12:2) and John the last; if reports are true about him. How little they knew what they were saying.

Jesus did not correct James’ and John’s mother regarding His coming kingdom. His only question was addressed to the two sons (“you” is plural), who apparently had urged their mother to make the request. He asked if they could drink the cup He was about to drink. 

However, granting positions of honor to His right and left in the kingdom was not His prerogative. Those places will be filled by those … whom the Father, the gracious and generous Judge (cf. Matt. 20:1–16), will appoint (v. 23). This account illustrates again that the disciples did not understand Jesus’ teaching about humility (cf. 18:1–6).

James was a disciple who was ambitious and goal orientated. While it is not wrong to have goals and ambitions, we must always channel those ambitions and goals within the providential and sovereign will of God and from the Word of God. 

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