Mark 10:35-37, “35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
In talking about the disciples, there is no one’s life detailed as that of Peter followed by that of James and John the sons of Zebedee. Interestingly, when Jesus called these two brother’s to be His disciples, He gave them the name Boarnerges which means Sons of Thunder, (Mark 3:17) because of their fiery temperaments. It appears that this is the only place in scripture where they were referred to by this title. We then wonder why the Lord would call them by this title as though He knew them from the time they were growing up or knew their hearts because He is God. Anyway, we come to learn that they somehow exhibited thunder like qualities in their dealings. They seem to have been very competitive brothers. Three things in Luke 9 gives a glimpse of how they dealt with things as sons of thunder. In the early chapter of Luke 9, James and John as disciples among others were sent out by Jesus to preach the kingdom and heal the sick. They were present and partly used in the feeding of the 5 thousand. They were present when Peter declared that Jesus is the Christ and they were brought in as part of the inner circle to the mount of transfiguration leaving the rest of the disciples behind.
Perhaps all these connections and experiences made them feel a little better than others, more worthy, more deserving and even more belonging. This led them to have disputes among themselves of who was considered the greatest, “was it Peter or one of them, James or John”. This drove them to the extent that when they saw a man casting out demons in Christ’s name, they forbade him because he was not following them, (Luke 9:49). It appears they decided who could and could not perform miracles unless they were part of the 12 that walked with Jesus. And if that was not enough, when the Samaritans failed to show hospitality to Jesus and rejected Him as the Savior, James and John asked Jesus for permission to call fire from heaven to consume them, (Luke 9:54). These are the realities of life when man is self-driven, very ambitious to the point of having a drive to misuse God given grace, power to advance self or exploit others. Every time they said something that demonstrated their nature, the Lord stepped in to provide a teaching to correct them but sooner or later they forgot and acted in some other way, and the other disciples at one point stepped in to rebuke them. This nature provoked Jesus to explain that the true greatness consists rather in serving others, as He was doing. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”, Mark 10:45.
It troubles me when I see those who should serve others behave like the sons of thunder. They want to use their influence, power, office, position to oppress others and serve themselves. We don’t need CEO preachers; we need Shepherds who tend to the sheep. We don’t need the untouchables, we need those like Jesus who are touched by our infirmities. John 13:3-5, “3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded”. Jesus had been given all things, He had taught and was about to demonstrate right before being taken to be crucified what it means to be great. After dinner when rest was so much needed, He laid aside His garments of glory and went down on His knees to wash the disciples feet. What a sight for the sons of thunder to learn the means of greatness. Servant leader is the spirit each believer should desire. That God given abilities are not to be used for abuse (exploits) but to serve others as He did. That is why He is our Master and we follow His footsteps. Blessings Ev