1 Peter 1:18-25
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
That word is the good news that was announced to you.
Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
He grants peace within your borders;
he fills you with the finest of wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his ordinances.
Praise the Lord!
They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Have you ever asked God to give you whatever you asked of Him? Perhaps not in so many words or face to face, like the sons of Zebedee in our gospel reading. But likely in prayer we have all approached God with the “please give me what I am asking You for” prayer. Of course, God is not a genie in a bottle and prayer is not a one-way street where we do all the asking and He decides whether to hear and answer or not. Prayer is a conversation, and God always hears and answers, even when that answer is silence. And very often, when God is silent or when we don’t get the outcome we prayed for, it is God’s way of saying “you do not know what you are asking.” In the case of the sons of Zebedee, they clearly asked Jesus to sit on His right and on His left in His glory. Jesus’s response to this request is that those spots have been prepared and He cannot say for whom; the sort of “I can’t tell you that” response that perhaps we have also received in prayer at some time or another.
But there is more. Jesus does not merely respond to what James and John have asked Him word for word. He also knows their hearts, and responds to the true desire behind the misguided prayer, reorienting their thinking away from worldly thinking and into a godly mindset. While James and John seem to be asking for a vain and ambitious thing, looking to secure their own power and privilege, Jesus knows that what their hearts really seek is to be close to Him and to be great men of God. So Jesus tells them what they should truly be asking for; to drink His chalice, and seek His baptism. To be willing to take on His service and suffering; to humble rather than exalt themselves; to enter into the mystery of being ransomed by His blood, and by their own sacrifices to make that mystery known to others. Positions of power and exclusive honors have no place in the kingdom of God; rather, those who lower themselves rise, and honors and greatness belong to those who know how much they are loved and extend that love with a sincere heart to serve and lift up others. When we read the gospel of John, we see how John always identifies himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” and time and again defers to Peter. We can see how this message Jesus imparted to John in this encounter shaped him as a disciple and evangelist; this message from a seemingly unanswered prayer.
What unanswered prayers have you lifted to God? Have you wondered why these remained unanswered or questioned His love for you? Today, take heart from the example of James and John. Remember that you are loved so much more than you know, that Jesus hears you and has answers even in His silence, and that He is working in your heart to make you more like Him and to fulfill your deepest and most authentic desires, which are of Him.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for loving me, ransoming me, and hearing me always. Help me to trust in You more and conform my desires and my thinking to Your ways, which are love and life. I love You, Jesus. Help me to become great in Your kingdom by loving and serving Your people.