A Mother’s Request
By Elsie Ruiz
How would it feel if our worst nightmare came true? If the one thing we prayed would never happen to us, did? What would we do? How would we react? What would be the long term consequence of this terrible impact in our lives?
For many of us would the loss of a child be hell on earth? An unimaginable nightmare with unthinkable thoughts? As heart wrenching as it is, it is a daily occurrence in the lives of our human race. But…if it were to ever touch our lives, tell me, how would we react? The loss of a loved one…would this break us? The loss of our freedom…of our jobs, of our health?
As I read a Biblical question one day, these and many other thought-provoking questions ignited in me a revelation. Jesus asked the mother of James and John this question, “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (Mathew 20:21)
No matter what we think or how we perceived her request, one thing I believe is certain, she loved her sons. It is also my belief that having the advantage of today’s clear vision of “the rest of the story”, what she asked was ridiculous. Jesus, though, did not ridicule her request, but instead, in the presence of James and John, simply said to her, “You don’t know what you are asking,”
Then turning to the two brothers, He asked them another question; “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.” (verse 22).
Who were James and John that they thought they so rightly deserved to be at the right and left of the throne of Jesus, AND that they were good enough to be deserving of such privilege? We may immediately ask ourselves, was this the ultimate arrogance or was it led by a most powerful love for Jesus that they wanted to be by His side, closest to Him, forever? At this point we do well in reviewing some well documented facts about James and John which may give us some clues.
They were called the Beloved Disciples; the ones Jesus called “the sons of thunder” (“James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”Mark 3:17). Along with Peter they were Jesus’ closest friends. Throughout His ministry, Jesus selected the three above all others. Here are some examples:
“He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James.” Mark 5:37
“After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.” Mark 9:2
As I studied these verses I was led back to the question in scripture that impacted me that day, and the verses that followed;
“What is it you want?”, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”, and the answer James and John gave, “We can.”
Have we ever reached a point with Jesus that we’ve surrendered our all to Him? A point where we’ve told Him that we are His? That we surrender everything to Him? THAT WE BELIEVE? When Jesus called us to follow, as He did His disciples, were we aware that to follow Him meant that we would have to also drink from His cup? If He asked us today to drink of His cup would our answer be, “Yes, we can.”?
When Jesus heard their reply, He answered, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” Matthew 20:23
James and John did not fathom what awaited them as disciples of Christ. The “sons of thunder” were not understanding the cup of Jesus, for that matter. At that moment they were looking at their ranking in the kingdom. The cross would have been unimaginable to them. Their sacrifice for Christ still not in their radar. Moreover, their mother, advocating for them, probably only saw the joy of her sons rewards for following the Messiah, the King. What mother wouldn’t be proud! The cup..it’s meaning? At this point in time, it never entered her mind!
Yes…but the cup! We know better today, over 2000 years later, don’t we? What if the cup meant we had to surrender our sons, our daughters…our loved ones? Surrender our freedom for Christ? Our jobs…ourselves?
So, if we know “the rest of the Story”, His Story, why do we not let go more GENTLY? Why don’t we drink from our cup more GRACEFULLY?
The cup Jesus drank was the Cross. He was brutally crucified and died for our sins, then rose from the dead so we could share eternal life with Him. Jesus asks us to do the same during Passover. At the last supper “He took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:27-28
To drink from the cup of Christ as a followers of Jesus does not necessarily mean to live a martyrs life, or to live in suffering. To drink the cup of Christ means to walk in Christ, to walk with Christ, to live as Christ lived, and to follow Him in our lives no matter where He leads us.
It means that He is in the throne of our lives. He is our King. He reigns above us. That we are certain that we are covered by the protection of our King, our Savior our Redeemer and therefore can and will withstand any wind of adversity that comes our way.
In this mother’s request I saw the Grace of Jesus. I saw His attributes. Jesus was patient. Not once did He reprimand the ignorance of her request or even their response. He could, couldn’t He? There was so much He could have said on the subject, yet He didn’t. Jesus answered first with a simple, “You don’t know what you are asking,” Few words. Words that would give this mother food for thought.
Then Jesus came back to the two brothers with another question. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink.” Aside from challenging them, He made them go deeper still. Humilitywas a lesson they would have to “drink” if their answer was “yes“. Because what they were about to witness on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice of humility.
He foretold in the last verse that they both would share in His humble obedience to the Father. Another of Jesus’ attributes. “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
James and John both did drink of the cup and shared in Christ’s obedience to the Father until their death. “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.” Acts 12:1-2. Asfor John, as a prisoner for Christ in the island of Patmos, he wrote for us the words on the Book of Revelations.
One of questions I ask myself is, what would be our own answer upon hearing this mother’s request? What would have been our attitude, our perception our demeanor on hearing James and John’s answer to the question put before them? As for me, I know my answer. Not like Jesus, I must confess. The chattering in my brain would have gone on the minute the mother asked her question. Even if, at best, I didn’t verbalized it, I would have judge each of them with my heart. How about you?
If I am going to drink from the cup Jesus drank…I MUST KNOW THE JESUS THAT DRANK OF THE CUP. To follow blindly is to stumble and to fall. When I first met Jesus I loved Him…I truly loved Him! But I had no idea what it meant to drink from His cup.
Day after day I begged Him, “LORD, MORE OF YOU and less of me. MORE OF YOU and less of me.” Until one day it was not death that shook me or a loved one that shattered my heart, but a “thorn in my flesh” that broke me.
I didn’t understand what was happening when my health was taken from me and almost nothing but my life was left. The journey to recovery was long and the suffering deep. It was there, in the darkest hours, that I learned what it meant to drink of His cup. One day He reminded me of my prayer. “LORD, MORE OF YOU and less of me. MORE OF YOU and less of me.” His answer? “But you asked…But you asked.” It was in this answer that I saw “His face.”
During my years of pain and sorrow…at times…there was NOTHING of me left…not even a prayer…yet He was there…He was ALWAYS there.
In pain…He revealed Himself to me. When, between my life and His heaven there seemed to be NOTHING, the mercy of His love sustained my heart. He was there…He was ALWAYS there.
When, between each breath I took and His throne in heaven emptiness reigned, His wondrous comfort embraced my heart. He was there…He was ALWAYS there.
When I could no more…HE DID. When I wasno more…HE WAS. Until doctors began to understand and treat my condition the only healing I felt came from His healing GRACE…from His loving heart. He was there…He was ALWAYS there.
Until I drank His cup I knew not Christ fully. I had said “Yes, I can.” yet, unbeknownst to me, the true journey to discovery had not begun. All or nothing, He had asked of me…ALL OR NOTHING! Are you in or out? There is no lukewarm in His Kingdom. I had wanted more of Him? Well, there it was!
My reward…A NEW ME!
Transformed and free. Loved beyond measure. Never alone. And fear? It has vanished from my life! In the process, I have much more of Him and less and less of me, but when I leave my earthly body I will give Him…ALL OF ME.
Today the scars and wounds from this great battle remain with me each and every day. They are a daily reminder of the sacrifice He paid for me. A small sacrifice I pay for my gratefulness.
It is my most heartfelt prayer that God pours upon all of us His awesome grace. I pray that we may continuously place Him first in the throne of our hearts, leading us to a peace that will help us to ALWAYS let go more GENTLY and help us to drink from our cup more GRACEFULLY .
Photo credit: nick kulas / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)