Me First

By B.J. Funk –

Do you remember James and John’s mother? Upon hearing Jesus say that they were now going to Jerusalem for his death, she reacted to this awful, gut-wrenching prediction by moving quickly to the front of the crowd, flashing a large smile and saying, “Well, I don’t understand any of that, but by the way, could my boys sit on your left and right side when you come into your kingdom?”

I imagine Jesus looked at her and thought, “What part of I’m going to die don’t you understand?” Instead, he said to her sons, “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

We can imagine her even larger smile and her confident giggle as she planned her answer. Oh Yes!” she sang out, twirling around in giddy fashion. “My sons can do anything!”

She pushed her boys forward. They followed the example of their mother. “Sure. Not a problem. We can do that!” Their exuberance and wide grin were too much for Jesus. Just when it would have been nice to be understood and consoled, Jesus had to stop for a crucial teaching.

He said to James and John. “You will drink from my cup, but seating arrangement is up to my Father.” Their mother’s large grin changed to a frown. She huffed away.

Jesus had just predicted his death and resurrection for the third time, but none of the disciples seemed to understand. He even gave six specifics. 1.) We are going up to Jerusalem, 2.) The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law, 3.) They will condemn him to death, 4.) They will turn him over to the Gentiles, 5.) The Gentiles will ridicule him, spit on him, torture him, flog him, and kill him, 6.) On the third day he will rise from the dead (Matthew 20:18-19).

But, the president of the “My Sons First Club!” didn’t hear any of that. Jesus continued with his pertinent message to his closest friends. Sitting beside him would not make anyone great. Greatness comes from becoming a servant.

Jesus was asking this wife of Zebedee, “Can your sons be subjected to and endure the same suffering as me? Will they be able to rise above the ongoing criticisms of my kingdom, even unto their death?” She didn’t hang around. She was heading home, ready to start a website named www.whyIdon’

This mother based her claim to fame on the fact that her sons were willing to give up their fishing license, leave their dad by himself to make the family’s living, and follow an itinerate preacher all around who knows where. They didn’t even come home for their birthdays! Didn’t that count for something?  They gave up so much to follow him. Why didn’t they deserve special treatment in his kingdom?

The message for all of us today is that there is no such thing as a “Me First” club where our Christian experience is concerned. Following Christ requires a “Me Last” status of inner denial to our insane demands for attention and our unbreakable bonds with self-satisfaction.

In truth, we each sit beside Jesus spiritually. We are pulled to live in joyful obedience to his instructions for our lives. Our relationship with him is one of beautiful intimacy where walking and talking together is a natural part of our day.

John and James’s mother wanted to splash in the shallow end of the ocean, sticking in only a toe. She was not willing to dive into the deeper waters of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.  She wanted the perks or knowing Jesus, but nothing of the pain. She was not ready to have suffering, abuse, ridicule, slaps, beatings, death, or to be hated. Never that! Jesus said, “You will be hated by everyone because of my name” (Luke 21:17).

Get ready. It’s happened to other followers. It will happen to you. Suffering, rejection, and hate are in your immediate forecast. This mother was not ready to hear this truth for her sons or herself. Are you?


  1. Jim Mcconnell says

    Let Us Sit Beside You, Jesus

    Let us sit beside you, Jesus-
    We would share your throne
    and crown-
    We would help you
    rule our neighbors-
    turn this old world
    upside down.
    We would gladly share the honors
    that the world casts at your feet-
    Let us sit beside you Jesus
    now at the table of your feast !

    Lord, we know the day is coming
    when you will reign on high-
    and we would share your glory
    in your kingdom in the sky-
    We know it won’t be long now-
    we can taste it, and we can thirst-
    Let us sit beside you, Jesus
    no more “last” we would be first !

    Yes, let us sit beside you, Jesus-
    you can tell we understand-
    that we will wield your power-
    has always been your plan-
    Side by side beside you
    it’s the place where we belong-
    above the noise and chatter
    of crowd’s ordinary throng.

    Until that day arrives, Lord,
    we would just ask of you-
    Please, no more talk of suffering-
    Forbid that such should come
    to you !
    And of a cross and dying-
    let us hear no more-
    For we would sit beside you, Jesus
    as all the world adores !

    But “Are ye able,” said the master
    “to be crucified with me?
    To drink the cup that I must drink,
    to see what I must see-
    to hear the angry voices
    or wear a crown of thorns –
    You who would sit beside me-
    can you endure the scorn?”

    Of course, Lord, we are able-
    just test us and you’ll see
    that we can bear the glory
    of sitting next to thee-
    But of a cross and dying-
    let us hear no more-
    For we would sit beside you, Jesus
    as all the world adores !

    Copyright 2018 Jim Mcconnell

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