“20Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” (Mat. 20:20-23)
It is telling that history records that all the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ died violent deaths. This is something we should meditate upon long and hard.
Clearly, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts nor are His ways our ways. The two are as far apart as the east is from the west. The reason for this is because when we have not been touched by the transformative power of Jesus Christ, we are mere men, and our desires and aspirations are worldly.
But when we meet with Jesus, we connect with a Power that no force can overcome. That means, firstly, that the things of this world that appear so needful to us become of very little importance.
Here we have the disciples of Jesus, the sons of Zebedee, thinking in terms of the glory of this world. But the mind of God was very far from that kind of understanding. God’s mind operates on a completely different parameter.
At the end of it all, the apostles of Jesus died violent deaths. They were either beheaded or crucified. The Bible mentions only the death of the Apostle James, who was beheaded. But this information alone should lead us to believe that the others suffered a similar fate.
That is how powerfully the apostles of Jesus entered into the Kingdom of heaven!
But before they knew who they were dealing with, the apostles James and John had no inkling whatsoever of how they would enter the Kingdom of heaven. At the moment they were asking Jesus to grant them to sit one on His right side and the other on His left side, they absolutely had no idea what it entailed to enter God’s heavenly Kingdom. They had no idea that one day they would lose their earthly lives in the most violent of ways. But Jesus loved them and He promised they would enter it through the most powerful way possible: through violence to the flesh
Similarly, I believe most believers have no idea what it entails to enter the Kingdom of heaven. They have no idea of the extent of God’s disapproval of the flesh. This earthly body which, incidentally, occupies all our thoughts and all our strength… this is where sin dwells. And we have been given these bodies for just one purpose: to crucify sin.
This was exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ said when He, too, was given a body. The Bible declares,,
“5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared for me. 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.” (Heb. 10:5-7)
Jesus was not given a body to go to the Alps with. He was not given a body to go shopping with. God gave Jesus a body to suffer for sin with.
And this is the mindset that we should have as believers. The desires and, indeed, needs of the flesh should occupy the least possible of the effort that we put out in this world. But we should go beyond there. We should actively engage in crucifying our flesh, for in our flesh dwells sin. And because sin dwells in our flesh, the flesh is therefore not our friend; it is our enemy. Actually, the flesh is the believer’s No. 1 enemy: the devil, the world and everything else follow a distant second.
Jesus was given a body to crucify sin with. How much more so we.
So let us leave off cozying up to the flesh. Let us be willing to accept the small hardships and persecutions that come our way. Then let us press on and accept even bigger sufferings and persecution. And one day, maybe, we just might be beheaded for the gospel’s sake – and thereby granted a mighty entrance into God’s heavenly Kingdom.
Finally, let us consider the words of Jesus:
“… but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”
Imagine that! God has such unimaginable surprises for us! Even if you paid the ultimate price by being beheaded or crucified, still God holds the prerogative to who will sit at His right side and on His left. You cannot say, “Because I have been beheaded for the gospel’s sake then I have the right to sit at the right hand of God.”
Being beheaded is certainly a great price to pay. But God is far, far greater than any sacrifice that we might make. We cannot even begin to think about where we will be in God’s heavenly Kingdom because the prerogative that God has in this issue is far beyond even our comprehension.
He is, after all, GOD, the eternal Father.