Matthew 20:21-27

Mat 20:21 (KJB)
And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

Jesus had told the disciples that He was going to suffer and die in Jerusalem but despite that revelation, James, John, and their mother had only anticipated the coming rule of Jesus from Jerusalem. What she had asked them was a tremendous request. Since she thought that there was going to be a coronation of Jesus in Jerusalem, she requested that her sons sit on both the left and right hand of Jesus. The right hand seat was the most honorable one and the left hand seat was ancillary to it. (Psa 110:1 KJV) A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. She probably made this request after she heard Jesus state that the twelve disciples would sit on twelve thrones judging the nation of Israel. No doubt this type of request was drilled into their heads since they were very young by the Rabbis who desired the best seats and the highest honors. The disciples were probably still under the illusion that Jesus was soon going to break the yoke of Rome off of Israel. They had searched for a Joshua type Messiah of military stature and this is why they did not understand the mission of Jesus as their Messiah.

Mat 20:22 (KJB)
But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

Jesus assures their mother that she has no idea what type of request that she had made. This is also a lesson in prayer that we must never be careless or thoughtless in our prayer requests. Jesus answers her and asks John and James a question, are they able to be baptized with the baptism that Jesus was soon to experience and to be able to drink the cup that He will drink of? They obviously did not have the proper understanding of what Jesus meant by these two implications. The cup was His approaching suffering and humiliation and the baptism was His death for the payment of sins. (Mat 26:39 KJV) And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Rom 6:3-4 KJV) Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? {4} Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Then they answered according to their understanding that they were able to undergo both the trial of the cup and baptism.

Mat 20:23 (KJB)
And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

Then Jesus assures them that they will drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism but it is not going to be juice in the cup and water baptism. It is sharing in the sufferings of Christ because they are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, James was the first to be martyred. It was not a question of they might share in the sufferings but it was a straight fact that they would share in the sufferings. Then Jesus answers the seat question telling them that the arrangement of seating is given to those whom the Father has prepared them for. The Lord Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father. Now look again at the request of James’ and Johns’ mother. She wanted one to sit on the left and one to sit on the right. She did not realize it, but she was asking if God the Father could be dethroned or move over one seat and allow one of her sons to sit in God’s seat to the left of the Lord Jesus. This is what we mean when we say we must be careful when we pray and that we should think our prayers through if the situation allows it.

Mat 20:24 (KJB)
And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.

Indignation - Anger, anger mixed with contempt

The other ten disciples had heard what was being discussed and it caused them to be very angry concerning the request. The way the disciples were thinking, those who became angry with them were angry based on their own misguided aspirations. Each one had probably thought they deserved their own place of recognition so their indignation was not a holy indignation but more out of a sense of personal pride. Remember their discussion about who was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven? Pentecost did fix all their wrong motives.

Mat 20:25 (KJB)
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

Seeing that there was almost a “denominational split” among the disciples, Jesus then gathers to Himself for a better explanation, especially how not to mimic the world and its powerbrokers. Jesus then brings up two ruling classes. The first one is the princes which would represent the government. Those in government exercise great dominion over the people. When they pass laws or when they make a proclamation of some kind, they expect absolute obedience or there would be consequences for those who disobey. Then there are those who are great which could represent the wealthy class of citizens. Today we would call them a plutocracy. We see this played out today in groups of wealthy people such as the Trilateral Commission or the Bilderbergers. These two groups plan world policy and then force the government to obey them by putting their plans into action. While they hold no government office, their wealth buys them influence with the government resulting in holding great authority over the people. It is the Bilderbergers who set the gas prices. The more you spend on gas, the less there is for you.

Mat 20:26 (KJB)
But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

Jesus then contrasts that the way of the world is not going to be the way of the Kingdom of God. The world’s way places the wealthy and influential at the top but in the Kingdom of God it is just the opposite. Those who are the great in the Kingdom of God are the ones who minister. In fact the word “minister” in the Greek is “servant.” So those in the Kingdom of God that are great are the ones who serve. Let us make a comparison between the world and the Kingdom of God concerning rank. The equivalent of the office of President and CEO of Exxon/Mobil is the Christian who does the most menial task for the Kingdom of God. (Heb 6:10 KJV) For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Mat 20:27 (KJB)
And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Chief - First

Then Jesus tells it plainly that if you so desire to be first in the Kingdom of God, then you need to be a servant. In the Kingdom of God, the way up is down, that is, humility enough to be willing to do the most lowly chores for the Kingdom of God. The true servant places the needs of others before their own and when a need arises, they step up to fulfill that need to the best of their ability. The true servant of God does not seek fame nor fortune, they seek opportunities to serve with a humble attitude in that service.