The brothers James and John have a request to make of Jesus. When he is in glory – reigning as Messiah and King – they hope to sit in the seats of honour on his right and his left. Their request shows how completely Jesus’ disciples have failed to understand his teaching. He has explained again and again that he is calling them to service and to love of neighbour. Jesus wants his disciples to follow his example of humility and suffering. Yet the disciples are still thinking in terms of earthly glory and ambition – still falling into rivalry and jealousy, even as Jesus prepares himself to face his suffering and death.
James and John did eventually embrace Jesus’ message. After his death and resurrection, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they became fearless witnesses and teachers of the Good News, and they drank the same cup as the Master, giving their lives for Christ. The Spirit will transform us, too, if we are ready to respond to Christ’s call.