“and he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?'” v. 36
Jesus and his disciples are on the way to Jerusalem. The time of Jesus sacrifice is drawing near. For the third time, Jesus clearly tells them,
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
One might think the disciples would respond with either disbelief, confusion, or concern at Jesus’ words. Perhaps they thought he was speaking figuratively, again. Maybe they weren’t allowing his words to penetrate because they didn’t want to believe this was true. Kind of like that knocking sound under the hood of the car, that you hope isn’t really there as you travel. Maybe if they just pretend he didn’t just say what he just said, it won’t be real. Whatever the reason for what follows, I’m stunned by the response of James and John. Sometime after Jesus speaks of his own death, they say to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
Now hold the phone! Come on guys! What planet are you on? Jesus has just told you, for the third time now, that he is about to be condemned to death! And you respond with, “Hey Jesus can you do us a favor?” Really? Then I’m even more blown away by Jesus’ response. He doesn’t stand there with a quivering lip, saying, “Don’t you care about me?” There’s no tirade about “All I’ve done for you.” –which in this case would have been completely justified. Instead Jesus, the man who is about to become a sacrifice, for a self-centered generation, says,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Still missing the moment, the brothers proceed to make a request.
“Grant us sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
Again, still missing a great opportunity to engage in self pity and shame these guys, Jesus asks a question,
“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink…?”
They assure him that they are able. With continued grace Jesus informs them that they will no doubt drink his cup of suffering, but the heavenly positions are already taken by those for whom they have been prepared. At the end of the story we see the other disciples glaring at them in disapproval, either because of the awkwardness of such a request or angry because they had only asked for two thrones instead of twelve.
I can’t be too hard on James and John. They remind me too much of myself. While my savior is talking about redeeming the lost and giving himself away, I’m preoccupied with securing a place for myself in heaven. Jesus is going to the cross while I dream about thrones. He’s calling me to give myself away as he did, but I’m just asking him for one more favor. Here’s the real kicker. When I come to him asking, he gives more grace, saying, “what can I do for you?” He’s already done more for me than I will ever be able to repay, and still he asks, “How can I help you?” No rebuke, no quivering lip to shame me. Just grace. Amazing.
Lord, thank you for being so gracious to me. Grant that I would get my mind fixed on the cross, and let the thrones take care of themselves. Help me to turn the tables on your grace and ask you, “What can I do for you?”