Ambition

James and John were one of two sets of brothers that were included in Jesus’ twelve member exclusive team of evangelists. Jesus told these men, “in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). James and John were often singled out and given special privileges such as witnessing Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1) and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37). In his list of the twelve apostles, Mark said of these two men, “And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; (and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:). The name Boanerges could also be translated sons of commotion (G993), but in its original form, the word Jesus used stood for violent anger or rage (H7266). It is likely that James and John had a reputation for losing their tempers and may have been raised in a home where violence was used to discipline them.

One of the few incidents of conflict among Jesus’ twelve apostles is recorded in Mark 9:33-34 where it says, “And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.” James and John took this conflict one step farther when they approached Jesus and asked him to give them the seats next to his in his throne room (Mark 10:37). James and John’s ambition appeared to be driven by a desire to be equal with Jesus (Mark 10:38-39). Jesus told 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, in not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23). The Greek word translated prepared, hetoimazo (het-oy-mad´-zo) means to prepare or make ready (G2090). Hetoimazo refers to those things which are ordained by God, such as future positions of authority.

Jesus told his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The word Jesus used that is translated prepare in this verse is also hetoimazo. The Greek word translated place, topos suggests that Jesus is building his kingdom based on our prayers or requests for occupancy in a particular spot that might be available (G5117). In this sense, you could say that Jesus is currently taking reservations and assigning spots to believers inside his Father’s house. James and John’s request may not have been all that unreasonable, but it was determined that their ambition to be seated next to Jesus was not at his discretion. Jesus revealed that the top spots in his kingdom were reserved for God’s elect and said, “whosoever will be great among you let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).

The Greek word translated minister in the phrase “let him be your minister” (Matthew 20:26) is diakonos (dee-ak´-on-os). Diakonos refers to “an attendant that is (generally) a waiter (at a table or in other menial duties)” (G1249). This term is used specifically in reference to a Christian teacher or pastor who is technically supposed to be a deacon or deaconess. Jesus identified himself as a minister and stated the purpose of his service was to “give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In other words, the job Jesus was assigned by his Father was to die for the sins of the world. This was the position God prepared for him and the reason Jesus would be located at the head of the table or in the top spot in God’s eternal kingdom. When Jesus asked James and John, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Matthew 20:22), he may have been asking them if they were willing to make the same kind of sacrifice that he was expected to. When they responded, “We are able” (Matthew 20:22) James and John were basically volunteering to become martyrs.

First priority

Jesus taught that God’s kingdom must be given first priority. In his parable of the great supper, Jesus described the result of putting a lower priority on spiritual activities. The men that were originally invited to a great supper or banquet excused themselves from attending because they had other things to do. As a result, the host had his servant bring in others who were willing to accept his invitation (Luke 14:21). At the conclusion of his parable, Jesus stated, “For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (Luke 14:24). In other words, the men that were originally invited, but didn’t come, wouldn’t be invited back to the man’s (Jesus’) house.

Jesus went on to explain that there was a cost to discipleship. He told the large crowd listening to him, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Jesus wasn’t talking about the free gift of salvation that God offers to the world. His invitation to “come to me” had to do with his work of transforming the Earth. Jesus said, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Before Jesus’ death, the cross was not associated with sacrifice. It was an emblem of severe punishment for crimes that were committed against the Roman government. What Jesus likely meant by “bear his cross,” was a willingness to go against the dictated behavior of human authorities. Today we might think of this as doing what is politically correct or following the prescribed rules of our culture.

Jesus used two examples to drive home the point that God would finish the work he started because he had already set aside the spiritual resources he needed to complete it. Just as the host of the banquet was able to fill his dining hall with alternate guests (Luke 14:22-23), God’s kingdom is open to anyone that is willing to serve him. Jesus concluded his lesson with an admonition to his listeners to keep a continual focus on being useful to God. He said, “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?” (Luke 14:34).

The Greek word translated savour, moraino (mo-rah´-ee-no) was being used figuratively by Jesus to describe someone that is stupid or foolish (3471/3474). Moraino is related to the word musterion (moos-tay´-ree-on) which stands for a secret or mystery “(through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites)” (3466). Musterion is a unique word in the New Testament. “It denotes, not the mysterious (as with the Eng. word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit.” Jesus probably used the word moraino in connection with salt losing its flavor so that we would understand that our usefulness to him has to do with our supernatural understanding of God’s kingdom.

Dispute resolution

In one of his rare private moments with his disciples, Jesus took it upon himself to settle a dispute among them that could have turned into a scandal if it was left unchecked. Jesus began by asking his disciples, “What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? Embarrassed by their petty argument, Mark tells us that no one answered, “But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest” (Mark 9:34). The Greek word translated greatest, meizon (mide’-zone) suggests that Jesus’ disciples were comparing themselves to each other based on their stature, importance, the reputation they had gained by their ability or more specifically, their achievements (3187). In other words, they were arguing amongst themselves about who was the best disciple. It is likely they were boasting about their accomplishments in order to show off and make each other jealous.

Jesus took this opportunity to sit down with his disciples and have a heart to heart talk with them. It was no doubt important to Jesus that he get everyone’s attention and made sure all of his disciples understood what he was about to say to them. Mark tells us, “And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me” (Mark 9:36-37). The point Jesus was trying to make was that stature or importance was not based on their accomplishments.

Jesus went on to explain to his disciples that the most important thing in God’s kingdom was not their accomplishments of casting out devils or healing the sick, but their loyalty to one another. He said, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41). The Greek word translated reward, misthos means pay for service or wages(3408). In other words, if you think about what we do for God as a job, the only thing we get paid for is what we do in the name of Jesus, for example, taking care of each others needs. Jesus clarified his statement by saying, we will not be rewarded for taking care of everyone’s needs, but only those that belong to Christ, the body of believers known as his church.

Surrender

One of the ways salvation is sometimes described is described is surrendering your life to Christ. The act of surrendering is often associated with criminals that have been caught by the police or an army that is taken prisoner by its enemy. There is usually some element of capture involved and the loss of freedom. When I became a Christian, I didn’t really surrender my life to Christ. I surrendered a part of my life, the part that was messed up and needed fixing, but most of my life was still under my control. Over the course of about 30 years, I slowly and gradually surrendered the rest until I was completely surrendered to Christ.

Most of the vessels in Solomon’s temple were made of brass (2 Chronicles 4:18), but some were made of gold. A list of articles made of pure gold can be found in 2 Chronicles 4:20-22 and it also indicates that “the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs, made he of gold, and that perfect gold.” The word translated perfect, miklah means completion (4357). Miklah is derived from the word kalah which means to end or be finished (3615). Kalah may refer to the end of a process or action, so the perfect gold may have been gold that was processed to remove impurities. The word translated pure, cagar means to shut up or imprison and figuratively it can mean to surrender. The likely source of this gold was an underground mine. Therefore, the reference to its purity is not about its quality, but its location.

Thinking about myself as a resource to God, I have no value unless I am where he wants to be when he wants to use me. Part of the process of my surrender was getting into a location where I would be available for service in a particular church/ministry. In some ways, my gifts and talents are now like a gold deposit ready to be mined when they are needed.

 

A woman after God’s own heart

After the Israelites were delivered from bondage in Egypt, they became God’s servants and were required to worship him. Animal sacrifices were not optional and were required on a continual basis until the Messiah came. In order for the sacrifices to be made there had to be a large population of priests to maintain the tabernacle and later the temple of God.

The tribe of Levi was selected to fulfill the roles of priests and musicians and were given the job of guarding the ark that contained the Ten Commandments. Moses and Aaron were from the tribe of Levi. Their sister Miriam is the only woman listed in the genealogy of the Levites found in 1 Chronicles, chapter 6.

Miriam is mentioned several times during the Exodus from Egypt. Her role as prophetess is unique for the time in which she lived. She is the only woman that had a special role during the Exodus. The name Miriam means rebellious (4812) and is derived from a word that means bitterness (4805). At one point, Miriam and Aaron challenged Moses’ calling and she was punished with leprosy.

Miriam was clearly a strong willed woman and may have been abused by the Egyptians. As a prophetess, she probably proclaimed God’s word boldly and did not hesitate to join in activities typically reserved for men. She is most likely mentioned in the genealogy because she distinguished herself from other women in her service of God and unlike the men who were required to serve God, she served him voluntarily.