Mrs Zebedee wanted her kids to be part, participating and powerfully used in the kingdom.
One of the comics that I used to love reading was Calvin and Hobbes. I remember the one were Calvin is standing by his mother’s bed on Mother’s Day and he says, “Hey, Mom! Wake up. I made you a Mother’s Day card.” His mother was very pleased and started to read it out loud. “I was going to buy a card with hearts of pink and red. But then I thought I’d rather spend the money on me instead. It’s awfully hard to buy things when one’s allowance is so small. So I guess you’re plenty lucky I got you anything at all. Happy Mother’s Day to you. There, I said it. Now I’m done. So how about getting out of bed and cooking breakfast for your son.” He adds, “did you notice the part about my allowance?”
Today is Mothers Day. It was back in 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson by an act of Congress, proclaimed that the second Sunday in May would be set aside for Mother’s Day. He declared it as, “a day for the public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” It has been said that, “no nation is ever greater than its mothers, for they are the makers of the next generation.”
Matt 20:20-21 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21 What is it you want? he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
Mrs. Zebedee was aware of the teachings of Jesus about His kingdom. She was also very aware of the fact that her sons, James & John, were very close to Him. Jesus had an inner circle – Peter, James and John. Her sons made up two thirds of that circle. Knowing how close Jesus was to her sons she also wondered what would happen to them when Jesus established His kingdom.
Perhaps she was there when Jesus told the story at the beginning of this chapter about the landowner who went out to find laborers for his field. The men hired first were paid the exact same as those who were hired last. Perhaps this had caused her to wonder, “Will my sons really have positions of authority in the new kingdom that Jesus will establish?”
When the opportunity presented itself she came to Jesus and bowed before Him and made her request that her sons would sit in places of authority and honor. It would be easy to criticize Mrs. Zebedee for being so bold. We know from the story that Jesus tells her that her request was impossible, that it was the Father who determined who would be seated there. However, I think that her request shows us three important truths that we need to remember.
1. She wanted her kids to be Part of the Kingdom
Good and godly mothers want to see their children saved. They want to see them receive Jesus as Lord and savior. I think for most of us as parents, this is the most important thing we want for our kids. Yes we want them to be happy in life and get good grades in school and get married to someone who loves them. These are all good things, but I would rather have them go without any of these and be saved then have everything in the world except a relationship with Jesus.
When we first moved to Kuwait I was the Youth Pastor. I was the first youth pastor the church had ever had, so I had to develop the youth ministry from scratch. One of the obstacles I had was the parents, especially of the Indian kids. They felt that their kids should be taking tuitions instead of going to youth group on Thursday nights. I remember having a conversation with one of the parents and I asked them, “would you rather have a child with an A+ average who does not love Jesus or a child with an A average who does?” What is ultimately most important?
My grandfather (George Sheane) was the only son in his family. On my dad’s side of the family, my brother and I are the only Sheanes that have had children, and all of them have been girls. We know that the Sheane family name will die with us. That does not bother me at all. I am much more concerned that my children bear their heavenly father’s name than their earthly fathers name. I am more concerned with passing on to them a heritage of faith than a name.
Godly mothers want their kids to receive Jesus because they know that it is the most important decision that they will ever make. They understand the verse that says; Mat 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The single most important thing we will ever do as parents is introduce our children to Jesus. I know that this may be a painful topic for some. I know that there are parents that are listening to me this morning who have children who are not walking with Jesus, and I know how much pain that brings you. There are no guarantees in life. God has no grandchildren. Everyone needs to decide for themselves if they will follow or not. You can have the most godly parents in the world, but that is not a guarantee that your kids will also choose to follow Jesus. Sometimes they simply do not make the choices we wish that they would make.
I heard the story of a mother who had a 3 year old son and a 1 year old daughter. The two kids were sitting on the couch watching TV together. The mother had to run to the kitchen for a minute so she told her son to watch his sister while she was gone. As soon as she was out of the room she heard a thud and then crying. She came running back in and saw her daughter laying on the floor in tears. She asked her son what had happened, and he said, “You told me to watch her, so I watched her. I watched her crawl over to the edge of the couch and then I watched her fall on to the floor and start crying. I did exactly what you told me to do!”
Being a parent is not easy. It comes with a lot of joy, but also often times of deep sorrow. Sometimes your kids can make you so proud, and sometimes you just want to shoot them.
Maybe you can relate to the story of the mother with 3 children who was asked, “If you had to live your life all over again, would you still want children?” “Yes,” she replied, “but not the same ones.”
Again, I like this comic from Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin walks by his mom and says “Hi, it’s me, your big accomplishment in life!” In the next panel you see his mom sitting on the couch saying, “I’m depressed.”
Godly mothers want to see their kids receive Jesus as savior. There is no higher joy than when this happens. If you are a mother today and you still have kids that have not done so yet, keep praying. No matter what the situation, keep asking God to touch their hearts and draw them to himself. Keep that hope fresh and alive within you.
2. She wanted her kids to be Participating in the Kingdom
Secondly, not only did Mrs. Zebedee ask for her children to be a part of His kingdom, but she wanted them to be actively involved in the work of His kingdom. It is not enough that we just want our kids to be saved. Churches are full of people content to just fill a pew on Sunday mornings. There are plenty of people willing to just sit back and receive a blessing, but seldom do they get involved in doing any of the real work of the church.
So where does the spirit of service and excellence begin? It begins in the home with parents setting the example and praying that their sons and daughters might be involved in the work of the kingdom. It is parents serving as Sunday School teachers and Youth Group leaders and Ushers. It is kids seeing how much the church means to their parents by seeing them practically and joyfully serving and not simply paying lip service to their faith on Sunday mornings.
Children will invariably talk, eat, walk, think, respond, and act like their parents. Give them a target to shoot at. Give them a goal to work toward. Give them a pattern that they can see clearly, and you give them something that gold and silver cannot buy — Billy Graham.
My very first job as a paid youth pastor was a difficult position. There were a lot of kids in the church with parents who claimed to be followers of Christ but showed very little spiritual fruit in their lives. I remember I was once asked to the home of one of these parents. When I arrived, the parent brought out their two very uncomfortable teenagers and began to tell me how bad their kids were and that I needed to do something about it. This parent had little to nothing to do with the church, and when they had been involved they had been the one causing problems. I remember turning to the kids and saying, “I am so sorry for both of you, that you are being forced to a standard that your own parents are unwilling to keep.” Set a good example for your kids.
Don’t be like the story of a family one Sunday after a Child Dedication service. As the family was driving home from church after the dedication of their baby, little Johnny, the older brother, cried all the way home in the back seat of the car. His mother asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, “That pastor said he wanted us to be brought up in a Christian home … but I want to stay with you guys!”
Godly parents set an example of faith and service for their kids. They model for them what the Christian life is supposed to look like. They want them to not just be part of the kingdom but participating in the kingdom.
Mickey Mantle has long been considered one of the best baseball players to ever play the game. As great as he was on the field, he was a terrible husband and father. His life was marked by alcoholism and abuse. He died at the age of 63 due to cirrhosis of the liver caused by his drinking. Before he died, he was interviewed at a news conference after being inducted into the baseball’s Hall of Fame. He was asked at that interview if he knew that he was a role model for so many kids. He said, “Me? I am no role model. God gave me the ability to play baseball. God gave me everything. For the kids out there, don’t be like me.” What a sad testimony.
2Ti 1:5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
We see the power of a godly example lived out in the life of Timothy. It was the life of his mother and grandmother than led him to receive Jesus and eventually come to an important place of service alongside Paul. This is the power of a godly example.
3. She wanted her kids to be Powerfully Used in the Kingdom
Mrs. Zebedee had big dreams for her kids. Not just that they would be in the kingdom and serving in the kingdom, she wanted them to reach their full potential. In any kingdom, there are no higher positions than those who sit on the right and left of the King himself. That is what she wanted for her kids. Not just that they would be believers and serving but that they would have positions of importance. That they would make a difference. She didn’t just ask for her children to be doorkeepers, she wanted them to be right up there at the front.
Before we are too harsh with Mrs. Zebedee for being brash and presumptuous, let us at least admire her for her boldness. Again, too often people have settled for mediocrity in the church. They simply seek a comfortable position that they can manage. Good parents want to see their children strive for excellence. They do not want them to settle for anything that is beneath their gifting and talent.
In the eyes of its mother every beetle is a gazelle — African Proverb
I love that picture don’t you? Every beetle a gazelle. You have this awkward looking dung beetle, and to it’s mother it is a graceful gazelle jumping through the tall grass. Godly mothers don’t just want the bare minimum for their kids, they want what is best.
You see this in the life of Hannah. She was barren and could not children. She prayed and God gave her a son. She called her son Samuel, which literally means ‘God has heard’ me. In gratitude for the gift of that child, Hannah dedicated him to the Lord. This was more than just your usual dedication. She took him to the temple so that he could be raised serving the Lord.
1Sa 1:27-28 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.
This is why we are so excited about the Bramalea School of Discipleship that we are wanting to start this fall. We want to see youth get excited about Jesus and figure out God’s call on their life. That does not mean that they will necessarily go into ministry. Just that they will be disciples of Jesus and serve him in wherever He leads them – as doctors or layers or teachers. We want these kids to be dedicated to Jesus to reach their full potential.
Mothers, have you given your kids to God? Have you dedicated them to Him, recognizing that they are His and not yours? Are you desiring that they would grow and become everything that God has for them?
Being a mother is such an important role. I know that it can often be discouraging. You get so stuck in the day to day routine of changing diapers, washing clothes and making lunches that you forget what an important role you have.
It reminds me of the father who was trying to explain the concept of marriage to his 4-year-old daughter. He got out their wedding album, thinking visual images would help, and explained the entire wedding service to her. When he was finished, he asked if she had any questions. She pointed to a picture of the wedding party and asked, “Daddy, is that when mommy came to work for us?
It can feel like that right? You are just the hired help. Remember how important your job is today. You are shaping a life, seeking that they would be saved, serving and successful. What a calling!
When Tony Campolo was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, there were gatherings from time to time to which faculty members brought their spouses. Inevitably, some woman lawyer or sociologist would confront his wife with the question, ” And what is it that you do, my dear?” His wife, who was the mother of 2 boys and one of the most brilliantly articulate individuals he knew, had a great response: “I am socializing two homo sapiens in the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the teleologically prescribed utopia inherent in the eschaton.” When she followed that with, “And what is it that you do?” the other person’s “A lawyer” just wasn’t that overpowering.
It’s not easy to be a mom. A mother was talking to an old college friend and said, “I remember before I was married that I had three theories about raising children. Now I have three children and no theories.”
Motherhood can be difficult and at time very discouraging. This Mother’s Day I just want to say thank you to all the physical mothers and spiritual mothers out there. Those who have sacrificed and served and prayed and loved. Thank you for modeling the love of Jesus to us.
During the second world war millions of Jewish people were killed during the holocaust. One story came from Solomon Rosenberg. He, his wife and 2 sons and his parents were arrested and placed in a Nazi concentration camp. It was a labor camp and the rules were simple. As long as you can do your work, you are permitted to live. When you become too weak to do your work, then you are exterminated. Rosenberg watched his mother and father marched off to their deaths, and he knew that the next would be his youngest son, David. David had always been a frail child. Every evening Rosenberg came back into the barracks after his hours of labor and searched for the faces of his family. When he found them they would huddle together, embrace one another, and thank God for another day of life.
One day Rosenberg came back and didn’t see those familiar faces. He finally found his oldest son, Joshua, in a corner, huddled, weeping, and praying. He said, “Josh, tell me it’s not true.” Joshua turned and said, “It is true, poppa. Today David was not strong enough to do his work. So they came for him.”
“But where is your mother?” asked Mr. Rosenberg. “Oh poppa,” he said, “When they came for David, he was afraid and he cried. Momma said, ‘There is nothing to be afraid of, David,’ and she took his hand and went with him.”
That is motherhood. Mothers, this is your day. May God bless you in it. And I pray that if there is someone here who has never experienced the love of God that is so close to the love of a mother, that this will be your time of decision. I pray that if you have felt that you have had to walk through the valley alone, that you will recognize that there is a hand reaching out to you, saying, “There is nothing to be afraid of. I’ll go with you.”
And I pray that you will recognize that there is one who has already gone through the valley of the shadow for you and made it possible for you to live forever. He extends His loving invitation in much the same way that a mother opens the door and calls her children in. Jesus is calling for you.