Matthew 20:20-28 NRSVue

20Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 21And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

24When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26It will not be so among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave, 28just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Some thoughts on this scripture

The mother of James and John wanted promotion for her sons. Their elevation would make her prominent too! Did Jesus smile sympathetically at her before warning her that in his kingdom, all human values are turned upside down?

Jesus is sensitive: he defends the two brothers against the other apostles. Then he broadens everyone’s perspective. He is saying: ‘You all want to be great? Fine! You will indeed become great – by serving others.’ And so it was. In my prayer, I let him ask me about my quality of service. This is what measures my closeness to him.