61. Who asked for the best seats in heaven? Mark 10:35-37 vs. Matthew 20:20-21
I’m not sure that’s exactly what they were asking, but we won’t get into that.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want Me to do for you?” He asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at Your right and the other at your left in Your glory.”
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of Him. “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.”
James and John were young men, and no doubt at least a little intimidated by Jesus. Ambitious mothers, however, have a way of inserting themselves into situations on behalf of their children.
Matthew tell us that Mom came “with her sons,” so there’s no inconsistency in that James and John were both present at this meeting.
Many commentators – including Barnes and Gill – suggest that their mother acted as a mouthpiece to break the ice and introduce what they rightly guessed would be a controversial subject.
If we continue reading Matthew’s account, the very next verse gives Jesus’ reply:
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
This suggestion explains much of the situation:
- Jesus answered the boys instead of their mother – even in Matthew’s account – because she had no part in the matter, and He knew where the request really came from.
- Both Matthew and Mark tell us that the other ten disciples heard about the conversation, and were upset with James and John – not their mother. Looks like everyone knew where the request really came from.
- Mark may have omitted any reference to the mother precisely because of the above. The point wasn’t who spoke the words. The point was who asked the question, and – more importantly – what the answer was.
Short answer: James and John