Mark 10:35 NLT
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “We want you to do us a favor.”
In my early Christian faith, stumbling around to find how best to follow Jesus, I was well-intentioned yet ill-informed. There was still a distinct demarcation line between my Christian and secular personas; drinking heavily with college friends Saturday night, worshipping enthusiastically Sunday morning. I hoped my different social circles never met. I feared judgement and rejection. Certainly some behaviour in both spheres was dictated by this fear of rejection. I allowed my identity to lie in the hands of others.
I often prayed like James and John. I knew what I wanted and God was its source. This was only an extension of the transactional relationships I’d always known. Be good at the dentist and Mummy will provide some reward. Work hard and secure exams to get ahead of the crowd in the jobs market. Be romantic and generous to win the favour of the girls I fancied. It was the politics of the marketplace transposed onto interpersonal relationships. Even today I find some spouses use the language of negotiation to describe how they navigate their marriage.
As a young Christian I assumed God was there to answer my prayers. I served God who then opened the candy box. My choice was deserving of reward. However, this is to miss the point. It was a privilege both to be a beneficiary of God’s love and sacrifice and to exchange my life for Jesus’. In other words, my life was no longer mine but God’s.
Here James and John seek to broker a deal with Jesus. They start from a hard position. Do for us whatever we ask. At this stage, nothing being offered from their side. They hope they can persuade Jesus out of his goodness and based upon their self-assessment of their worthiness. They no doubt came from a wealthy background, their father Zebedee owning a fishing business on the Sea of Galilee, and were used to giving direction.
QUESTION: What’s the character of your prayers? Are you seeking to negotiate with God?
PRAYER: Jesus, help me be obedient to your charge to seek first the kingdom.