One day James and John’s mother brought them to Jesus and kneeled before him. It’s not certain that James and John knew what their mother was going to ask for. But ask she did! When Jesus asked her what she wanted, she said, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom” (Matthew 20:21 ESV).
Jesus told her she didn’t know what she was asking. He then asked the brothers if they could drink the cup he was to drink. He was asking if they were able to suffer like he was about to. They affirmed. Jesus told them that they would drink his cup but that he couldn’t grant who gets to sit as his right or left. Only the Father can deicide that.
What Jesus could decide, however, is that “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” (vs. 26-28). God is not concerned with people climbing their way to the top. Instead, he wants us to serve those in need–to care for the poor, broken, orphans and widows. It is they who will be first in the Kingdom.