An Ambitious Request – Doing What’s Best For Our Children
By Steph Nickel
What’s best for our children? Steph looks at the story of the mother of the sons of Zebedee as an example of how sometimes we don’t know what’s best.
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What’s Best For Our Children
We mothers want what’s best for our children—at least what we think is best. And that’s nothing new. You can read the story of one mother’s request in Matthew 20:20-28.
Because context is important, let’s begin reading in verse 17. “And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, ’See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.’ Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’ And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (ESV).
I’ve read this story many times. I’ve even written about it. However, I’ve never realized how strange this woman’s timing was. Jesus had just explained that he was going to suffer, die, and rise again. We now know that His disciples didn’t truly understand what this meant. Maybe they thought He was mistaken or maybe they simply didn’t have “ears to hear” at this point.
The Sons Of Zebedee
Did James and John’s mother hear what Jesus said? It’s hard to say. The passage says, “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons …” My suspicious, however, is that she did hear what Jesus said or was informed by her sons.
However, she was focused on one thing only: securing the best political positions for her sons. Like the rest of her people, she was almost certainly looking for a saviour who would overthrow their Roman oppressors and establish an earthly kingdom. And she wanted her sons to rule and reign in this kingdom.
Because Jesus addresses His answer not to this woman but to her sons, I suspect this was not only her desire but theirs as well. When Jesus asked James and John if they were able to drink the cup of suffering He was about to drink, they assured Him they could. But because they were among the disciples who later deserted their Master, we know they had no idea what they were asking.
This mother and her sons didn’t truly understand the request they were making. They also didn’t understand the Lord’s definition of greatness.
Jesus gathered all the disciples together and explained to them, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (ESV).
And the Ultimate Example? Jesus Himself.
Verse 28 of Matthew 20 says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (ESV).
These words gave those who first heard them much to think about. They still do, millennia later.
What can we learn from this mother’s ambitious request and the Lord’s response?
We ought to prayerfully consider our hopes and dreams for our children.
Even those of us who have been Christians for years, likely want what virtually all other parents want for their sons and daughters. Happiness. Safety. Security. We must be in God’s Word regularly and ask Him to adjust our perspective and our desires where they don’t line up with His.
We must keep God’s perspective in mind when we’re praying for our children.
Even Jesus didn’t find it easy to pray “Thy will be done.” However, this is the very best prayer any of us can pray for ourselves or for those we love.
From the time they’re young, we should seek to set a godly example for our sons and daughters.
We don’t want to wait until our children are grown before we address these issues. From the time they’re young, we must make it a priority to get to know the Lord better and model a godly life for our family. Each of us must come to saving faith on our own, but if we set a good example for our children, it will have an impact on them.
We must set aside pride and embrace humility.
It’s no wonder the Bible has so many negative things to say about pride. It’s insidious. In fact, I recently faced another example of pride in my own life that I hadn’t thought of as pride before now. It isn’t natural for us to embrace humility and seek to do away with pride—not in our own lives and not in the lives of our children. Yet, as we look to Jesus, we realize how important it is.
We must teach our children that what’s truly best is to follow Jesus’s example and seek to honour and glorify Him rather than ourselves.
It isn’t about power and position. It isn’t about fame and fortune. It’s about making Jesus known. Now that’s something to pursue, something to request for ourselves and our sons and daughters.
Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance writer and editor. She is the coauthor of Paralympian Deb Willows’ award-winning memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books.
Steph is a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and The Word Guild. She and her husband of over 30 years live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.
Steph’s goal is to nurture and inspire. She blogs at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests. She also guest posts regularly on the topics of Christian living, writing, and fitness. You can visit her website, stephbethnickel.com, to learn more about her.
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