Two friends were talking. The first friend asked the second friend, “God is so angry with the sinfulness of man that he is going to destroy all of those who are wicked. But before He destroys them, he decides to send a special letter to all those who are the good and righteous people. Do you know what that letter says?” The second friend answered, “No, what does it say?” The first friend recoiled in horror: “Do you mean to tell me that you didn’t get a letter?”
Love is the willingness to sacrifice for others. Hatred is the willingness to sacrifice others. We are not surprised by the request of the sons of Zebedee.
“Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” How very childish and immature. “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” We are not sure what they meant by “glory.” It is clear that Jesus understood it as Heaven. It is very possible that James and John saw it as an earthly kingdom. “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
Jesus once said to the disciples, In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Now Jesus is a little taken back by Thomas who has been with the group the whole time. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.
James and John are worrying about whether they will sit at the left or right of Jesus, but Jesus is concerned if they will be in Heaven. Faith is not a contract. Faith is surrender.
In an old Irish legend of a ruler who wished to leave his kingdom to the cleverest of his three sons, he took the first son on a long journey, and on the way he said, “Son, shorten the road for me.” The eldest son was overwhelmed by the task, gave up, and they returned home. The king embarked on the same journey with the second son and said, “Son, shorten the road for me.” Like his older brother, the boy was daunted by the request, gave up, and they too, returned home. The king then took the youngest son on the long journey. He said once again, “Son, shorten the road for me.” The youngest son told his father a long story so engrossing that before he knew it, the king had finished the long walk. We can’t lessen the number of miles on the road. We can’t walk those miles for another person. Having a companion on some portion of the road, however, can make the long, lonely walk seem shorter and often make our journeys, however difficult, infinitely more bearable.
A man once asked a theologian, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple?” The reply was insightful, “I do not know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose me?” The mere preaching of the gospel does not save an individual. The gospel message must be activated by the election and calling of God for an individual to be drawn to him. It would be as if one had thrown a rope to a drowning man. The throwing of that rope could not save the man unless someone were at the other end drawing him into shore. This is what God has done. By his election, God draws to himself the one who has heard the message. The man may have the rope, but he still needs the efficient force of God drawing him in. Who, therefore, deserves the praise for salvation, the man who grabbed the rope? No, the God who draws him in!
We lay the most difficult burden on ourselves – we demand the following of all the Laws. Who deserves God? The one that can keep all the commandments? God knows we cannot keep the Laws, that is why He sent his Son for us.
What Jesus is trying to make clear is that salvation is a relationship not rules. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:15-17) You cannot love someone because of a Law but you can love someone because of a relationship.
Richard Dortch explains how he had a difficult time even wanting to attend church after the fall of PTL. However, through two persistent couples who had befriended the Dortchs, they eventually attended church one Sunday morning. Here is the account of a portion of that service: “I was very uncomfortable as we slipped into a pew at the Pinellas Park Wesleyan Church. Then something unusual happened. Just before the message, the minister asked a young woman named Mindy to come to the front. The girl, in her twenties, literally ran to the platform as the entire congregation stood to their feet in applause. Then, the pastor presented her with two bouquets of red roses. As we were seated I wondered, ‘What has she done to deserve all this attention?’ The pastor explained, ‘Mindy, you have been gone for two-and-a-half years, and many of these people don’t know who you are.’ Then he told how this lovely girl from their church had been involved in an accident where alcohol was present and had just been released from the Florida Prison for Women. ‘Mindy, how many of these people have written to you or visited you since you went to prison?’ the minister asked. I’ll never forget her answer. She smiled and said, ‘Pastor, I quit counting after a thousand.’ At that moment I knew we had found a church home – a warm, loving group of people who would be a shelter in our time of storm. They didn’t point fingers or pass judgment. They simply reached out to embrace us when we needed it most.”