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Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him [Jesus] with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” Matt. 20:20-22

Dear Lord Jesus, every time I read this story about two of your apostles and their mother asking for a position of privilege and power in your kingdom, I find my incredulity meter going berserk. How in the world could James and John possibly think this request would ever be appropriate, especially given the three years of mentoring and modeling you gave them? Everythingabout you contradicted their request. How dare they—how could they be so foolish?

But just as I climb onto my hobbyhorse of disgust and judgmentalism, the gospel dismounts me. I have to ask these questions of myself: How am I just like James and John? How do my words, attitudes, and choices contradict the very gospel that I love and defend? Whose incredulity meter am I forcing into overdrive?

Is it those who live with me, or those who work with me? Those who taste my impatience when I’m behind a steering wheel? Those who overhear my idle chatter and self-indulgent banter; or those most exposed to my excesses and vanity, my fears and unbelief, my driven-ness and rudeness, my insincerity and irritability?

Jesus, I praise you for your patience and forbearance with me. Sit on your right or left? I’m just grateful to be in your kingdom, covered in your righteousness, and secure in your love. I could never drink the cup you alone drank for us on the cross.

The cup I now drink and the bread I now eat remind me of your death, unite me to your life, and call me to your likeness. Jesus, I don’t want to be incredulous over anyone’s sin but my own. By your Spirit, make me less and less oblivious to my ongoing need for your transforming grace. So very Amen I pray, in your kind and forbearing name.

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Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter.

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