The Scriptorium

Are You Able?

It's a question we should consider. Matthew 20.20-23

Matthew 20: Calvary in Sight (4)

Pray Psalm 63.1, 2
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

Sing Psalm 63.1, 2.
(Nun Danken: Now Thank We All Our God)
O God, You are my God, and earnestly I seek You!
My soul thirsts and my flesh in weariness now greets You!
Thus I would see Your face, with glory and pow’r arrayed,
In this Your holy place – Your beauty here displayed.

Matthew 20.1-23; meditate on verses 20-23.

1. What was James’ and John’s mother seeking?

2. How did Jesus respond?

Jesus had previously promised His disciples that, in the time of regeneration, they would be rulers and judges over the people of God (Matt. 19.28). That promise struck a receptive chord in the souls of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Mark has James and John approaching Jesus by themselves (Mk. 10.35). But in our text, it looks as if the two brothers put their mother up to asking the question that burned in their souls, whether they might be the right- and left-hand men of Jesus in the Kingdom (vv. 20, 21). They are present, we know, because Jesus addressed His remarks to them, and they replied (v. 22).

Jesus explained that they didn’t know what they were asking (v. 22). They had latched on to the promise Jesus made, but had somehow skipped over the means to that end. There was a cup to be drunk, and it was bitter – a cup of suffering. Were James and John ready for that?

They answered without hesitation, “We are able.” But were they? Like everyone else, they would abandon Jesus in the garden less than a week following this incident (though John hung around the cross, as he himself reports, Jn. 19.25-27). They thought they were ready to rule, because they didn’t understand that ruling with Christ entails suffering with Him (Phil. 1.29).

We should commend James and John for wanting to be great in the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5.17-19). We all should embrace similar aspirations. But obedience and suffering – self-denial and cross-bearing – are the way to greatness. God has prepared a place for each one of us in His eternal Kingdom (v. 23); our duty is to seek and fulfill that calling by making sure we’re ready to live for Jesus, and to die for Him, if necessary.

Are you able?

1. Why is it right to seek greatness in the Kingdom of God?

2. How would you explain to a new believer how to find the “place” God has prepared for him in His Kingdom?

3. What does it mean to follow Jesus in seeking the Kingdom of God?

They say, “We are able.” They say this not so much by the boldness of their own hearts as by the ignorance of the trial. For to the unknowing, war is a desirable thing, just as to the inexperienced, the trial of suffering and death seems to be a light thing. For if the Lord, when he had entered into the trial of his suffering, was saying, “Father, if it can be done, let this cup pass from me,”
by how much more would the disciples not have said “we are able” if they had known what the trial of death was like? Anonymous, Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 35

Enable me to follow You today, Lord, and to realize more of Your Kingdom as I…

Pray Psalm 63.3-11.
Thank the Lord for His constant Presence and steadfast love. Seek these for you Kingdom-seeking work today.

Sing Psalm 63.3-11.
Psalm 63.3-11 (Nun Danken: Now Thank We All Our God)
Your steadfast love, O Lord, than life is better to me.
So I will praise Your Name, and bless You, Lord, most truly.
My soul is richly blest; to You my hands I raise,
and open now my mouth to offer joyful praise.

By night, Lord, fill my mind with pleasant meditation;
for You have been my help as ‘neath Your wings I station.
My soul clings, Lord, to You; I rest in Your Right Hand;
may all who seek my life in Your displeasure stand.

Unto the sword’s strong pow’r let our foes be delivered!
Pursue them to devour their mortal lives forever!
In God will we rejoice and glory in His grace;
but all who live by lies shall perish from His face.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore