Ambition of James and John

Upon the way to Jerusalem, the disciples were Mark X. 32-34. amazed and filled with fear, beholding Jesus going Matt. Xx. 17-19. before them. He announces to the Twelve privately Luke xviii. 31-34. His approaching death and resurrection, but His words were not understood. Afterward James and John, Matt. Xx. 20-28. with their mother Salome, come to Him, asking for Mark X. 35-45. the seats of honor in His kingdom. He denies their request. The jealousy of the other apostles.

Upon the way, and probably soon after reaching the valley of the Jordan, He took the Twelve apart, and announced to them, for the third time, His approaching death, but with greater particularity than before. He now speaks of the mode of His death: that it must be by crucifixion; that He should be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, and by them be mocked and scourged. That this announcement was made early in the journey, appears from the use of the present tense : " Behold we go up to Jerusalem." l Mark adds, " And Jesus went before them; and they were amazed ; and as they followed they were afraid.'.' As this amazement and fear were previous to His informing them what was about to befall Him, it indicates that there was something unusual in His manner, something that awed and appalled them.3 Luke informs us that, notwithstanding the Lord's words were so plain and express, " they understood none of these things, and this saying wras hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken." An undefined sense that some great and awful event was impending, seems for a little while to have had possession of their minds; but, even now, of its real nature they had no just conceptions. They knew why He had sought refuge in Ephraim, and that to go to Jerusalem was to expose Himself to the malice of the Pharisees, (John xi. 8 and 16,) and momentary doubts of the result troubled and depressed them. Yet, on the other hand, they had seen so many proofs of "His mighty power in Galilee, and the resurrection of Lazarus was so fresh in their memories, that they could not believe that His life could be taken by violence, or against His will. That He should voluntarily yield Himself up as a victim, was wholly inconceivable, and His plainest words could not change their long preconceived and deeply-rooted opinions as to the nature of the Messianic kingdom. All His predictions respecting His sufferings and death, though explicit in the letter, they so interpreted as to harmonize with a victory over all His enemies, and a triumphant reign.<

i See Liechtenstein, 370.

2 Meyer, following a different reading, makes two parties: some who remained behind in their amazement, and others who followed Him, but with fear. The received text is followed by Tischendorf and Alford.

A striking commentary upon Luke's statement, that the disciples, understood none of the Lord's words, is found in the request of Salome, that her two sons, James and John, might fill the highest places in His kingdom. It has already been noted, that the sending out of the Seventy, and the peculiar character of this journey to Jerusalem, had awakened very strong expectations that the day was very near when He would openly and successfully assert His claims to the throne of His father David. Perhaps Salome and her sons may have had in mind His promise, spoken several months earlier, (Matt. xix. 28,) that the twelve apostles should sit in the regeneration on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel; and believed that the time for its fulfilment was near. The request was made by her in person, but her sons were also present, and the Lord's reply was addressed to them. Probably it was made some few hours after He had spoken to the Twelve of His sufferings and death ; perhaps when they were drawing near to Jericho, and had already been joined by troops of the pilgrims on their way to the feast. The excitement of the occasion, the tumult of the multitude, and the joy and honor with which the Lord was greeted, would naturally drive from their minds the sombre impression of the earlier part of the journey. What the expectations of most of those who accompanied Him were, clearly appears from Luke's words, (xix. 11:) "They thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear." Under these circumstances, it was not strange that Salome and her sons should present their request.