“Simply Ask”

Matthew 20:17-34

Jesus and His disciples are on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus knows the devastating event that will occur when they arrive. He is keenly aware that those following Him haven’t a clue. However, what is more concerning to Jesus is the fact that even after following Him and listening to Him for the past three years, His disciples still haven’t caught on to Kingdom living. 

Jesus has been teaching them since chapter 5 when He gave His message on the Beatitudes and His Sermon on the Mount. I think we need to recognize just how drenched in their culture the disciples have been. It has been three years of actually sitting, eating and sleeping with the Messiah and Jesus still has to teach them about “status,” and how that doesn’t exist in God’s Kingdom. 

Check in time… 

We shouldn’t for one minute think we have conquered the “status” understanding in God’s Kingdom. Christians have continued throughout history claiming a “higher” status over others. The Crusades, the colonization of America, religious groups today. Somehow, we allow our culture to guide our thinking, instead of the Sermon on the Mount. We are just as thick headed as the disciples. Let’s do our best to read today’s Scripture and learn how those in God’s Kingdom should think of themselves. 

Last week we read the parable Jesus told regarding how people would be seen in God’s kingdom. The first would be last and the last would be first. An upside-down view of who gets what in comparison to how people were treated on earth. 

Jesus continues with His explanation with another example of the first being last. He tells them again that their idea of Messiah was backwards. It was not correct. Yes, He was the Messiah and yes, they were on their way to Jerusalem to observe Passover. 

However, He was going to be the Passover Lamb. 

This time in Jesus’ description of what would happen when they arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus provided more details. He began with telling them He was going to be handed over, or betrayed, to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. 

Betrayed? This meant there was a traitor in their midst. Yet no one responds to this statement. Take note, not one person responds to this entire report, not even Peter. 

Their expectations of what the Messiah should do when they get to Jerusalem had clouded their ability to truly “hear” Jesus’ words. Their focus on a political kingdom overtook any concepts of a spiritual kingdom. This news simply went right over their heads. 

Check in time – 

How often do we “stop listening”? 

You’re in the doctor’s office and you hear the word, “cancer” ….. You stop listening. 

Someone starts a conversation about our next presidential election…. You stop listening.

My first example: you stop listening because emotionally you will need to wrap your head around dying. 

My second example: you stop listening because intellectually you think you already know everything you need to know about the subject. 

It’s called “selective hearing.” 

My students participate in this activity all the time. Spouses have a way of selective hearing, 

“Sure, honey, right away honey.” 

When the details of the request went in one ear and out the other. Unfortunately, I believe we do this with God as well. 

The disciples did. 

We talk to God, we tell Him things, we ask Him things, and then we fail to really listen to Him. This Scripture demonstrates just how easily it happens. 

Let’s give the disciples the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they heard what Jesus was saying but thought He was telling them some sort of parable? 

Jesus has just told them He was going to die. Not just die, but the description He provided was not only detailed it was gruesome. The concept was inconceivable so perhaps the disciples thought Jesus was sharing some deep mystery. When, in fact, Jesus was talking to them straight.

Look at how straight Jesus told it. He gave each distinctive steps that would occur: 

  • Betrayal
  • The religious leaders would be the ones to condemn Him, but would not be the ones to execute Him
  • He would be delivered over to the Gentiles for His killing
  • He would be mocked, flogged and crucified, 

at this time only the Romans performed crucifixion

  • And that He would rise to life on the third day

Extremely detailed, and extremely not heard. 

Poof, over their heads. 

Next, the mother of James and John kneels down before Jesus to plead for sons to have a high rank in His kingdom. This demonstrates that even those outside the inner circle also misunderstood what it meant to be a member of God’s Kingdom. Jesus kept telling them that in God’s Kingdom, the first would be last and the last would be first. Didn’t she understand the very question of seeking a high position, or to be known as “first” of the disciples would immediately put her sons “last.” She too couldn’t get her cultural understanding out of the way and wrap her head around kingdom living. But she was a mom, first of all, and was hoping to assist her sons in a prominent position. Her request was to have them sit on either side of Jesus as He rules His kingdom. To her, those seats meant prestige and power. 

Notice, they were there with her, because Jesus asked them if they really understood what was being asked. To which they quickly responded, they did. 

Can you picture Jesus’ face and demeanor? He realizes they were clueless. He has just told them of His demise and how it was going to happen and yet they were ready to be on either side of Him? Jesus knew they would initially fail. However, He also knew they too would indeed drink from His cup, they would also eventually suffer. James would be the first martyr among the apostles and John was the only apostle who was not martyred, but not for a lack of trying. 

However, where they were to sit was not up to Him to decide. The Father decided such things.

Good thing too, because as soon as the other disciples heard what James and John and their mom had been trying to do, Eugene Peterson translates their feelings as, 

“…they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers.” 

How dare they go behind everyone else’s backs and ask for special favors? Clearly these men were not yet, “Kingdom thinkers.”

You can almost invision Jesus rolling His eyes as it reads,

“So Jesus got them together to settle things down.”

Although it doesn’t read like this exactly, I think Jesus could have said something like, “Okay you blockheads! Settle down. Take a deep breath and listen, just listen.

You guys are acting just like the Gentiles.” Ooooo, sting. Telling someone who was Jewish they were acting like Gentiles was a low blow. 

At least Jesus would have gotten their attention. Enough for them to hear His next statement. 

 “Not so with you.”

It’s supposed to be different among the people of God. 

Check in time…. 

That message is the same for us today. God’s church should not make decisions and base how it responds to matters the same way our world does. Check out Jesus’ next statement. 

“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—”  

In God’s Kingdom community, status, money, or popularity are not the attributes you look for in

leadership. Humble service is a prerequisite, demonstrated by Jesus Himself. 

The definition of real ministry that comes from the Kingdom of God is 

done for the benefit of those ministered to, 


for the benefit of those who are ministering. 

Are we any better than Jesus? 

The Son of Man did not come to be served, 

but to serve. 

That is about as upside-down as you can get. 

How many kings in our world live such a life? And yet, kings supposedly have all they could want. Which is Jesus’ point exactly. In reality, we have done nothing to deserve such a servant savior, yet we are redeemed. And if the King of Kings and Lord of Lords came to earth to give His service, and if we have graciously accepted it, 

What are we thinking?

Are we thinking like the disciples were at this point? 

“Wait a minute? What about me? I want to sit next to Jesus.” 

Or, do we recognize that once we are a child of the King, we are taken care of, completely. 

Time to serve. 

This discussion must have calmed the argument for the time being because we read they left Jericho. Notice, they were not that far from Jerusalem and they are not that far from Passover and Matthew records there was already a great multitude following them. 

Part of that multitude consisted of two blind men sitting by the road. Their ears and voices were fine because they heard that Jesus was passing by and cried out in desperation. 

They may never have this opportunity to talk with Jesus again. 

When the crowd around them tried to hush them, they screamed even louder. Notice how the crowd treated those with disabilities. Notice how Jesus treated them. Jesus heard their persistent plea for mercy and He stopped and addressed them directly. 

What did “mercy” look like for these blind men? 

Jesus asked them point blank, 

“What do you want me to do for you?” 

This simple question God continues to ask, each of His children. We all have disabilities and one of our greatest disabilities is 

when God wants to give us something, 

we go without,

simply because we do not hear Him asking this question. 

James put it this way in chapter 4, verse 2, 

“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”

I wonder if James recalled this incident when he wrote that statement?

Okay, don’t think Jesus didn’t know these men were blind and what they needed and wanted. 

He had just predicted exactly what was going to happen once He arrived in Jerusalem down to the smallest detail. 

Jesus wanted these men to articulate their needs so there would be no misunderstanding what God was giving. 

Stop for a moment, how much do you have that you take for granted, that in essence, is God given? 

The short answer is “EVERYTHING.”

Notice what happened as soon as Jesus gave the men their eyesight – they followed Him.

Okay, check in – what do you need? 

I mean really need? 

Simply ask. 

We so often forget we are the child of the King. A king who desires to sit and talk with His children. He wants to hear our hearts and provide us with His riches and His will for us. 

Mind you, His kingdom is upside down from our perspective, but as we have seen today, Jesus is able and willing to deal with our misunderstandings and foibles. What He is looking for most 

is for women and men with a heart towards Him. 

He’ll take care of the rest. 

Let’s pray.