The Zebedee Boys—Put my sons in charge!

The Zebedee Boys—Put my sons in charge!

James and John had fire in their bones. Somewhat misguided fire, but being backward in coming forward with it, they were not! Their desire to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans earned them the nickname, “Son’s of Thunder,” from Jesus (Lk.9:53-55; Mk.3:17).These brothers came from a fishing family. Zebedee was of sufficient means to carry on the business when his sons went with Jesus to catch men (Mk.1:19-20; Lk.5:10).Who could miss the leadership potential in their business partner, Peter? Men like him have to be beaten to the front. Thus, they conspired to make sure that they were placed in second and third positions in the New Kingdom. Matthew tells us that it was their dear old mum who fronted up to Jesus on behalf of her boys (Mt.20:20-23). She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left” (Mt.20:21).Mark restores a semblance of (undeserved) dignity to her sons by saying that they themselves approached Jesus with the request (Mk.10:35-45). This is appropriate, given that Jesus’ answer is directed at the brothers, and the other disciples, by way of a statement followed by a question: “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” (Mt.20:22). And not ones to lack confidence under pressure, they said to Him, “We are able” (Mt.20:22).Jesus assures them that they would indeed drink the cup of suffering in the Kingdom. James was the first Apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2), and John would live into his old age taking up his cross daily in sacrificial service to the Kingdom.To this day many Christians share the concept and desire for leadership that James and John had on that day. Jesus corrected them by a living contrast: “Rulers of the gentiles lord it over” people (Mk.10:42), but “whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all (Mk10:43-44).Only slaves can expect to be first in the Kingdom.

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