April 13, 2014
"At this point the mother (Salome) of the sons of Zebedee arrived with her sons and knelt in front of Jesus to ask Him a favour. 'What is it you want? 'He asked her. 'Please say that these two sons of mine may sit one on each side of You when You are king! 'she said.’ You don't know what it is you are asking,' replied Jesus."
Matthew 20: 20-22
Phillips Modern English
"Why Did The Women Stay?"
"Ambition is like hunger; it obeys no law but its appetite."
What personal ambition have I had in my life that has taken over and pushed aside my focus on my heavenly Father's will for my life?
What specific accomplishments in my life have truly made me feel fulfilled?
"Ambition destroys is possessor."
"But many who now are first will be the last then, and many who now are last will be first then"
Matthew 19: 30
The above words were spoken by Jesus to his disciples. Interestingly, these words follow the story we reviewed this week regarding the rich young man who came to Jesus wanting to know how he could climb higher on the ladder of successful spiritual living. After giving Jesus a litany of all his good deeds, he asked, "What more can I do?" When he got Jesus' response to sell all and give to the poor, the young man walked away. After watching this event transpire, Peter, ever ready to point out his good qualities, informed Jesus that he and the other disciples had left everything. Peter wanted Jesus to know how faithful they had been but he also wanted to know what their reward would be.
Here's where I want to stop a minute and look at Jesus' response to Peter and His' disciples. Jesus said that when the Son of Man shall sit on His throne, "You who have become My disciples will also sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes" (Matthew 19:28). For a moment, let's just say you were Salome, the mother of James and John, and the wife of Zebedee. The Bible identifies her as one of the women who followed Jesus, gave to Him from her means, and went along with the other women to the tomb of Jesus with spices on resurrection morning. What's more, according to Biblical historians, she was the sister of Mary. In other words, she was Jesus' aunt.
It is quite likely Salome may well have been present when Jesus informed His disciples that they would sit on thrones beside Him. With this context, it isn't surprising to find Jesus' aunt, went to Him, asking that when He set up His Kingdom, her boys (who were Jesus' cousins) would get top billing -- one sitting on the right side and one on the left side.
The problem was, the kingdom that Jesus' disciples were longing for was an earthly kingdom which took on the Romans and hammered them into the ground. Not only was Salome looking for an earthly conqueror, but so were Jesus' disciples, especially Judas, whose motives were exposed when the greedy, ambition that filled his heart drove him to betray Jesus, simply because Jesus didn't live up to the expectations Judas had relished.
Frankly, Judas and Salome weren't that different. Don't get mad at me for saying this. I understand both of these people because I've acted just like them and perhaps you have, as well.
They were ambitious individuals. They wanted the best in their own lives as well as in the lives of those they associated with. What's more, they both would do anything possible to see they got what they wanted, even when it meant using family or political connections to take the reins of power.
I'm certain both Judas and Salome were thrilled to hear that thrones awaited in Jesus’ kingdom. Don't we all want the crown and the throne?
But here's the problem. Too many people today, especially in Christian’s circles where we should know better, are ambitious for the prosperity without ever considering the pain. We want the throne without the thorns. We want the celebration without the crucifixion. And for those of us ambitious souls, we also want to skip over the words of Jesus that remind us that the last on the list on earth, are the first in His' list in heaven.
When we put all our effort into climbing the earthly ladder of success, whatever it is that we define as success, we may end up as A. Raine correctly observed, "getting to the very top of the ladder, and then finding it has not been leaning against the right wall."
The definition of successful in Jesus' world was such a let down to Judas, he chose to remove himself from a life with Jesus. But for Salome's children, for James, whose understanding of what true success was all about, his path led him to martyrdom and for his brother John, who also chose the way of the Master, banishment to the deserted island of Patmos proved to be his final fate.
I wish my message to you today could be that the women (and men) who chose to follow Jesus found out that His way was easy and prosperous. It wasn't. For many, it was the opposite, yet they stayed anyway. No worldly ambition was enough to draw them away from the "Man" they trusted and believed, the "Man" they walked with everyday. The "Man" who filled every longing of their hearts -- especially those that were never satisfied by earthly crowns and earthly thrones.
"Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled by great ambitions."
Henry Wordsworth Longfellow
"Grant me, O most sweet and loving Jesus, to rest in Thee above every creature, above all health and beauty, above all glory and honour, above all power and dignity, above all knowledge and subtlety, above all riches and arts, above all joy an exultation, above all fame and praise, above all sweetness and consolation, above all hope and promise, above all desert and desire, above all gifts and presents which Thou art able to bestow or infuse, above all joy and gladness which the mind is capable of receiving and feeling...O my God!"
Thomas a Kempis
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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