The Reign of a Suffering Servant (20:20-28)

This passage shows us that the disciples had misunderstood both the preceding passion predictions and Jesus' teaching concerning the kingdom's nature. Hearing Jesus' promise of a special place for the Twelve (19:28), James and John wanted to establish a special place among the Twelve. While each of us is special to the Lord, we must not fail to recognize, as the sons of Zebedee did, that all other disciples are special to him as well. To accomplish their petition they enlisted their mother; Jewish tradition accorded aged women a special place of respect that younger women did not hold (compare Judg 5:7; 2 Sam 14:2; 20:16-22; Tit 2:4). Further, women could get away with asking requests men dare not ask, both in Jewish (Lk 18:2-5; 2 Sam 14:1-21; 20:16-22; 1 Kings 1:11-16; 2:17; Bailey 1980:134) and broader Greco-Roman culture (Dixon 1988:179).

To the disciples, recognizing that Jesus was Messiah and would soon reign was an expression of faith (16:17); unfortunately, they failed to grasp the seriousness of the sacrifice that constituted the prerequisite for his kingdom (16:21-27). Outsiders recognized Jesus' Davidic rule in truth (15:22; 20:30-31), but here James and John function more like the crowds that recognize Jesus' Davidic role when it is popular (21:9). Those crowds never became disciples who submitted to Jesus' rule; they preferred a revolutionary (27:17-25).

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