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Do you know what you are asking for? (The Zebedee Petition)

Rev. Enoch Thompson | July 5, 2023 | Matthew 20:20-23


"You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them."Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" Matthew 20:22 (NIV)


In the privilege we have to follow the Lord Jesus Christ as His disciples, we gain access to Him and to the Father, to present our desires in petitions, and He is gracious and faithful to us in answering us. However, there is a real danger of asking wrongly and asking without the Kingdom in mind.

The Lord has just been speaking to the Apostles about His impending death and resurrection. It seems the minds of the Zebedees run fast forward and concluded that after the announced resurrection, the Lord Jesus would exert greater powers to overthrow the Roman colonial government and establish the long-awaited Kingdom of the Messiah. In that event they needed to secure their position as primary among the Apostles, possibly one was to be the Minister of the Interior and the other the Minister of Wealth and Natural Resources!

It is to be conjectured that the idea was that of John Zebedee and James Zebedee and that Mrs. Zebedee, their mother, was brought into the action in order to bring a feminine motherly touch to the petition. Or was it that Mrs. Zebedee had been the originator of the idea, and as the power behind the throne as often is the case, had brought her sons into the plot as her front-men?

Whichever way the request originated it was unthoughtful and insensitive. It was parochial and selfish; it was fleshly and unlike the way Kingdom citizens should reason. The Zebedee Petition did not happen only then. Today in God’s Church, there are people who think and act in a fleshly manner, politicise the Church, and must have the first place always. There is competition among Pastors, and this sometimes in the media space.


Have we gone that far and that low, have we become members of the Zebedee family? We may not go that far, because we are decent, but are our thoughts and expectations of God selfish and unresponsive to others and to God’s Kingdom? Do you know what you are asking for?


Lord, I may not always ask aright, and I ask to be forgiven for that. Please help my thinking and my behaviour. May I see the bigger picture and avoid narrow, selfish and worldly ways in my relationship with you, with the Church and with my practice of Kingdom citizenship. For your dear Name’s sake, Amen.



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