By Colleen Donahue

We come now to a story for all of us that are achievers and who want to make our mark in this world. The central characters in this study happen to be two of the Lord's disciples -- James and John. In a show of ambition, they come to Jesus with a misguided request revealing two hearts that still thought according to the ways of the world -- even while literally walking with the Son of God.

As usual, in a display of great patience, Jesus uses the situation to teach us the difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world ----the difference between ....


False Ambition and True Ambition

Studies continued from Matthew 20:20-28


Day 1- As mentioned above we come now to a story for all of us achievers that want to make our mark in this world. Who comes to Jesus with a request?
Matthew 20:20

Mark, in telling this same story gives us the names of the sons.
Mark 10: 35

Why is there a difference in the two accounts? Here is William Barclay's explanation found in "The Gospel of Matthew, Vol.2" on Page 252.
"The reason for the change is this --- Matthew was writing twenty-five years later than Mark; by that time a kind of halo sanctity and saintliness had become attached to the disciples. Matthew did not wish to show James and John guilty of worldly ambition, and so he puts the request into the mouth of their mother rather than of themselves."

Day 2- The fact that James and John were the Lord's cousins may help us understand why they felt they could ask for a special place in God's kingdom. Being family surely qualified them for a better place. What was their request to Jesus?
Matthew 20:21 / Mark 10:37

Day 3- Now Jesus loves to answer the requests of his followers but here was a request he couldn't honor. Why?
Matthew 20:22

Even though Jesus had been speaking to them about the Kingdom of God and his death that was fast approaching, they still were thinking in terms of an early kingdom and their place in it next to their invincible king -- Jesus. There was still a dullness in the disciples which Jesus actually pointed out to them on various occasions.
Matthew 15:16 / Matthew 16:11 / Luke 18:34 / Luke 24:25

Day 4-There is a mystery about life that only God knows.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 / John 3:8

But there is much more about life that God intends for us to know and understand. How are we to know it and what will cause us to miss it?
Jeremiah 5:4-5 / Romans 10:3 / Ephesians 4:18

Day 5- If anyone should have had understanding it would have been the disciples. They had walked closely with Jesus for 3 years. But understanding doesn't come upon us from the outside. It begins on the inside. What keeps men from having understanding?
Psalm 32:8-9 / Proverbs 24:30 / Isaiah 27:11 / Jeremiah 4:22 / Jeremiah 5:21-22

Day 6- If we are not diligent to seek God, reflect upon His word, and obey it, then what will happen with the good truths that we read or hear from others?
Matthew 13:19

Am I accusing the disciples of not being diligent in seeking God? Yes and no. While only God can judge a heart, we do know that they consistently did not grasp the truths of Jesus evidenced by their words and actions. And thus we have this misguided request by James and John.

Day 7- What James and John wanted in having the places of honor in God's kingdom provides us with an example of a situation common amongst men on earth. Those with false ambition will:
A. Compare themselves with others
B. Jockey for position
C. Try to gain recognition
D. Strive for power
E. Take control

Now James and John were probably not evil, power hungry men. But they illustrate the fact that every person who walks after their "natural fleshly nature" have it within them to "get to the top" and do things that will get them the best advantage in this world. And, in the world, this is actually looked upon as a good trait. But, until we have a sense of our own sinfulness, we engage in self deception.
Galatians 6:3 / 1 John 1:8

Day 8- James and John were like so many of us. They loved God, walked with Him, and listened to Him daily. Yet what can sadly still be true?
Romans 7:15-24 / Roman 8:8

Day 9- When false, worldly ambitions drive our actions what do we see happening in others and ourselves?
Genesis 37:11 / Numbers 16:3 / 1 Samuel 18:8 / Matthew 20:24

Day 10- One of the things I love most about Jesus is his love and patience. He doesn't rebuke James and John for their ambitious request, but turns it into another opportunity to teach his disciples about the difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. What is the standard procedure here on earth -- in the kingdom of this world?
Matthew 20:25

Day 11- Why is pursuing worldly ambitions a short-sighted pursuit?
1 John 2: 16-17

How is it like an addiction?
Ecclesiastes 6:7

Day 12- In a simple straightforward sentence Jesus lets them know that living as a citizen in the Kingdom of God will be opposite to those choosing to live in the kingdom of this world.
Matthew 20: 26-27

Day 13- The thinking (and therefore the actions) of those belonging to God must be completely different from how the world thinks. Why?
Romans 8:6-7

Day 14- We are born into this world under the shadow of the sin passed on from Adam and Eve. Our natural tendency will be toward worldly ambitions. But, if we choose to follow Christ we will have to do an 180 degree turn. How does this transformation start to take place?
Romans 12: 1-2 / Romans 13:14 / Colossians 3: 1-5

Notice the key is our thinking. That must change first since our mind regulates how we act.

Day 15- In the world, to be a servant and a slave is nothing to be desired. But, in the Kingdom of God these are the top positions -- these are the best! They are what the Lord chose for himself.
Matthew 20:28 / Luke 22:27

Yes, even though Jesus was the Son of God, He deliberately chose to be our servant.
Philippians 2: 6-8

Day 16- Men and women loved him for it. They were drawn to Jesus like a magnet for they received the love, respect, and kindness befitting their true nature as children of God.

It's in the life of Christ that we have our example of how to be a servant and a slave. It will require a constant choice on our part.
Philippians 2:3-5 / Romans 12: 14-21

As we make the daily choice to live according to the principles of heaven we begin to lose our ties to the kingdom of this world and can declare as Paul did...
Philippians 3:8

Service (or doing things for others) is the only badge of consequence for a Christian.

Day 17- I wonder when Jesus finished his lesson if James and John had their heads dragging between their knees! I'm quite sure that Jesus never doubted their loyalty despite their blindness and mistaken ambition. Even when we despise ourselves, Jesus still believes in us and lifts us to a higher place.
Isaiah 43:25 / Isaiah 44:22 / Lamentations 3:22-23


Day 18 - James and John went on to become humble, faithful followers of Jesus. James was privileged to become the first of the apostolic band to become a martyr.
Acts 12:1-2

In contrast, John lived to be almost 100 years old. He had the privilege of testifying to Jesus throughout his long life of discipline and struggle. He was privileged to be at Christ's death, a witness to the Resurrection and later received from God amazing visions recorded in Revelation. He died in exile on the Island of Patmos. From his youthful desire for greatness, he grew in humility and love to become one of the most beloved disciples of Jesus Christ.

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