While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
From John Wilson
In this passage, we see Jesus with the twelve on his journey to Jerusalem, where he knows, in intimate detail, what is going to transpire in the coming days. From earlier chapters, we know that this is the third time he has broached this subject with his disciples. The disciples, unwilling or perhaps unable to comprehend what is going to transpire, are fed even more details about the events which will soon unfold. Is Jesus politely telling his them to pay attention when he takes them aside from the large crowds which accompany them? After all, they had failed to get the message the first two times he has brought up this subject. At this point, some political intrigue is introduced when the mother of James and John approached Jesus to put in a good word for her sons to sit on the left and right of Jesus in his new kingdom. Needless to say, when the rest of the disciples get wind of this, they are not amused. There is so much to unpack in this piece of scripture! In the grand scheme of things, I believe Jesus wants us to remember that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. We can all reign with Jesus by following in the footsteps which he has already charted for us. In the kingdom of God, we can only gain power by serving others and showing grace to all, regardless of who they are, where they came from or what they have done. We would all do well to remember that the Son of Man came into this world not to be served, but to serve all of mankind.