“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ And they said to him, ‘We are able.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink … but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant. …’” (Mark 10:35-40).
It is very instructive to me to notice what Jesus does not say in answer to his disciples’ chutzpah. He does not say: “You are arrogant to think you will be able to just go out and drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I will be baptized with (that is to say, to suffer persecution). And by not rebuking James and John for thinking that they will subject themselves to execution in Jesus’ footsteps, I take it that Jesus had no objection to their saying that. He was fine with their resolve.
It is easy for us to criticize James and John not only for the presumption of asking for the best seats in heaven, but also for what we imagine is their pridefulness in thinking they can drink the cup of persecution Jesus is about to drink. But there is no hint that Jesus is displeased. There is not a word of correction on that score. There is no indication in Jesus’ dealing with the situation that he is anything but pleased with their resolution to follow Him to a cross. He chides only their plans for the seating arrangement in the new kingdom, and gently at that.
We often confuse resolve and determination with arrogance, presumption, and lack of humility. But God loves a determined and zealous heart for His kingdom. From Caleb to David to Daniel to Paul, the great men of God have made determined plans to live and fight for God. And they have been held in high honor for that. For the opposite of determination is flaccidness and complacency. Let us speak words of determination, then. Like this:
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”