20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.21 And 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.22 But 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.23 And 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.24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.29 And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.
Have you ever thought about what it would have been like to have an encounter with Jesus? Have you ever imagined what it must have felt like to have Jesus heal your disease, cure your sickness and come to your defense? I have. I have spent lots of time imagining even the possibility of just one exchange with the Son of God, because there is no doubt about it, anyone who felt the presence of Jesus left changed. For nearly every person who encountered Him, there was a happy ending that followed. For nearly everyone…but not everyone. There were a couple of exceptions.
In fact, in Matthew chapter 20, we see a rather bizarre and interesting encounter between Jesus and the mother of two of His disciples. Here, the mother of John and James approaches Jesus and makes a request on behalf of her sons. So what does this proud mom ask of the Son of God? Matthew says it this way: “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”. (Matthew 20:21b)
To people living in 1st century Israel, they would have understood exactly what the mother of John and James was asking. She wanted her sons to be honored. She wanted them to be recognized and praised and esteemed for their status. It was a bold request. To her it must not have seemed like that big of deal. I mean, if Jesus was able to turn water into wine, raise people from the dead and multiply some fish and bread to feed thousands, then surely what she was after couldn’t have been that big of a deal. So she did what we just started talking about doing this past week. She collided. She put herself in a position to collide with the Son of God and made a request.
And Jesus said, “No.”
These typically aren’t the stories we spend time focusing on when it comes to studying Scripture. But we can’t deny they are in there. Here, this woman makes a decision to collide with Jesus and she walks away not having received what she came for.
So what does this mean for you? Don’t ask for an assigned seat next to Jesus in heaven? No. I don’t think that is the point of this story. I think the point is bigger than that, deeper than that, more meaningful than that. See, while we have been talking about colliding, about walking away changed, there is the temptation to think that when we do collide—when we put ourselves in a position to be changed—we start to believe that change has more to do with what we want that change to be, and not what God intends that change to be.
The mother of James and John boldly put herself in a position to collide. She saw what this man, this teacher her boys had dedicated their lives to following, was capable of. And so she decided to put herself in the path of a collision, but only because she had an end in mind for what would happen after having collided with Him. For a lot of the stories in Scripture, Jesus said “Yes.” “Lord, open my eyes. Lord, cure my leprosy. Lord, cleanse my son. Lord, raise my daughter.” And Jesus did it. But tucked in the pages of the New Testament are also some stories where Jesus didn’t do what was asked. Because sometimes the change people wanted wasn’t the change He wanted in them.
When Jesus told the mother of James and John that he would not grant the request she made, He was reminding her, and reminding us, that He isn’t a genie. He isn’t a magician. He is God. And as God He has something in mind for you that may be different than what you have in mind for yourself.
And sometimes, when we put ourselves in the path of a collision, while we are guaranteed to see change, it may not always look like the change we anticipate. Colliding isn’t about getting the guts to pray for, ask for or work for the end we have in mind. Colliding is about putting yourself at the mercy of a God who has bigger plans than you have ever imagined and bigger purposes than you can dream of—who is bigger than any collision we can dream up. It doesn’t mean you always get the answer you want. It does mean you get the thrill and the excitement of trusting God to determine exactly what you could and should learn from colliding, from intersecting with the people in your path and thus, with God.
Colliding is scary—even more so when you aren’t exactly sure how the encounter will result. Putting yourself in a place where you collide means embracing mystery and some uncertainty. But it also means embracing the God who is strong enough, big enough and powerful enough to be involved in the process. Who knows how a collision will leave you. Who knows the person you will be at the end of the process. Those things may not be for us to decide. But the good news is you can trust the God who does decide—who is involved in and encourages you to live a life in the path of a collision.
We may not always get the answer we want. But we will always get the God we need, who is in the process of making us into the people He needs.