To read the texts click on the texts: Jer18:18-20; Mt 20:17-28
The text begins with what is known as the third and final Passion and Resurrection prediction in Matthew’s Gospel. This is the most detailed of the three and Matthew specifies crucifixion as the manner in which Jesus will be put to death. However, Jesus is not simply a passive victim, his death is in obedience to the will of God and he will let nothing and no one come in the way of this obedience. Even as he speaks of his death, Jesus also predicts his being raised on the third day.
If in Mark, it is the
brothers James and John who make of Jesus the request for places of honour (Mk
10:35-37), in Matthew, it is the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew does
not name the brothers since he wants to spare them this ignominy) who comes
with the request on behalf of her sons. The right hand and left hand symbolize
places of honour and authority. In his response, Jesus does not address the
mother or even James and John, but all the disciples. In contrast to Mark who
mentions both the cup and baptism, Matthew focuses exclusively on the cup of
suffering, testing, rejection, judgement and violent death. The metaphor “cup”
here seems to refer to the death ordained by God which is willingly accepted by
the one who is to go to his death. The disciples’ bravado and willingness to
drink the cup is only verbal and not one which they can show in their deeds.
Though Jesus is aware of this, he looks beyond their failure and invites them
to share his cup. However, even martyrdom does not gain one a special place in
the kingdom because not even Jesus will be able to assign such places. These
are the exclusive prerogative of God.
The request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee leads to anger on the part of the other ten. This anger indicates that they too like the mother (and the two brothers) had not really understood Jesus’ way of proceeding. Jesus thus has to teach them yet again the meaning of discipleship, authority and service in the kingdom. The king in the kingdom is not a ruler but one who serves, the Lord does not lord it over others but is their slave. By adding “Just as” before the final verse here, Matthew makes Jesus as the model whom the disciples are called to imitate.