By, Isam Itson III
Matthew 20:23 – “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
The phrase “drink my cup” means that you will share my life and fate. You will come to my same end. Jesus directs this statement to James and John after they send their mother to ask for positions of honor for them when he establishes his throne in Jerusalem. These are two of the three disciples that are closest to Jesus. They have been with him since the earliest days of his public ministry. They knowJesus better than all of the other disciples know him. In their minds they are the most qualified to speak for Jesus. They should be entrusted with the positions of greatest authority and honor when Jesus begins to rule in justice and righteousness over all of the nations on earth.
Like most of us, James and John are thinking about how they can ensure that they have the best life possible. They want to make certain that they receive all they are owed for being faithful to Jesus. They deserve positions of great honor and to be rewarded for their faithful service. All of the disciples have a place in Jesus’ kingdom. But James and John believe they deserve the best place.
First, Jesus tells them that they will have to face the same challenges as him. At this point in their journey with Jesus, they are not thinking about Jesus having to die for the sins of the people. They are only thinking about the end of Roman tyranny and the beginning of the reign of God on the earth. Jesus knows that his path leads to death for his followers.
We tend to dream of paths in life that lead to personal fulfillment, security, and satisfaction. The freedom to enjoy ourselves and to do as we please. Jesus leads his followers down a path that fulfills God’s purpose for our creation and directs us to spend our lives seeking the best for others. God wants us to share the life he has given us with others. God wants us to commit all of our time and energy, our whole life and passion, toward helping others experience the love and faithfulness of God through our relationship with them.
God is calling all of us to surrender our lives as living sacrifices so that he can bless others through us. God wants us to share fully in his work of reclaiming and restoring all humanity for the blessed life he created us for in the first place. James and John will indeed drink the same cup as Jesus. God will call them to give their lives fully to help people see the power and faithfulness of God.
Second, Jesus reminds James and John that their places in the kingdom are ordained by the Father. He goes on to instruct them to be faithful as the servants of others and to see themselves as slaves of God. In the world of ancient Greece and Rome, slaves had no say over their lives. Their entire purpose was to bring honor to their master. They had no life, ambition, or honor of their own. Their only legitimate ambition was the fulfillment of their masters’ interests. Their only goal in life was to honor their master.
Jesus is reminding James and John that God is the one who assigns them their lot. They cannot manipulate God or use the system to achieve their own self serving ends. Following Jesus means that we understand that our lives are completely in God’s hands. He does with us as he wishes for the fulfillment of his purpose. He places each of us where he has ordained us to thrive in his service. Following Jesus means accepting that God knows the best place for us in life. We just have to be faithful, no matter what.
God wants us to trust him, to humbly bless others, and to experience his faithfulness, in a way that only he can be glorified. We are pursuing God’s agenda, not ours. Along the way, we need to learn to trust in God rather than ourselves. God’s grace is sufficient.
1. Serve God and others faithfully.
2. Trust the wisdom of God’s timing and purpose in your life.
3. Be thankful for God’s grace and faithfulness in your life.
4. Don’t spend your energy pursuing wealth and honor.