The request of James and John

MATTHEW 20:17-28

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves... Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Him with her sons and did Him homage, wishing to ask Him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered Him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at Your right and the other at Your left, in Your Kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to Him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at My right and at My left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”


CAN YOU DRINK THE CHALICE? Twice before, Jesus warned His disciples that  His life was moving inexorably toward suffering and death. Now, as they walk along the road that leads up to Jerusalem, Jesus predicts His death for the third time. This prediction is somewhat more specific, for Jesus actually names the precise events that will occur: Mockery, flogging, and crucifixion. “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” Jesus asks James and John. If they want to sit next to Jesus at the Kingdom banquet, they must drink from the same chalice He drinks, the chalice of suffering. This image of a chalice filled with bitter wine of suffering is taken from the Old Testament (cf Is 51:17; Jer 25:15; Lam 4:21). James and John respond to Jesus’ question by vowing that they are, indeed, able to drink this chalice. In a sense, they are correct. James and John, as leaders in the early Christian community, will endure its persecutions and suffer for their faith; James will die a martyr’s death by Herod Agrippa’s sword (cf Acts 12:2). In another sense, though, they are not able. After only a meager taste of the caustic wine, James and John, as well as the others, throw down the chalice; in Jesus’ passion, “all the disciples left Him and fled” (Mt 26:56).

If you were to make a request to Jesus now, what favor would you ask from Him?

SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2015,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail:; Website: