Jesus: Gentle Jesus!

17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. 18 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. 19 Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”  20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked. She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” 22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” 23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” 24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant.


This is the third time Jesus mentions His death [Matt. 16:21, 17:22] and each time He has mentioned the resurrection but this is the first time that He mentions the means of death which will be crucifixion. Although Jesus is very serious, His words seem to fall on deaf ears because immediately or so it seems, Salome {James and John’s mom} comes to Jesus and kneels before Him. It was obvious that she wanted something and so Jesus asked her, “What is your request?” Holman translates it “What do you want?” Then she proceeds to ask Him for special seats of honor for her sons in the coming kingdom. Like the other ten disciples, we are prone to think her request was very vain and selfish. I think we could agree that basically the question is flawed but it reveals several things:

  1. THEIR UNDENIABLE VANITY….James, John and their mom Salome [Mary’s sister] are human. They wanted to be first in line since they were related to Jesus by blood. They simply adapted to the world’s philosophy of looking out for number one. It is root, hog or be left out. It’s a poor dog that can wag its own tail. God helps those who help themselves, etc.
  2. THEIR INCREDIBLE FAITH…They do believe in Jesus. In Matthew 19:28, Jesus said“I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” So Salome and boys are guilty of taking Jesus at His word which is not a bad thing. Although the question has a vain motive, it does indicate faith on their part.
  3. THERE ENDURING LOYALTY…They told Jesus that they would drink the cup and He did mention that it would be bitter. They did indeed drink the cup and they are to be commended for doing so.

Let me say in passing that [1] the CUP is real, not literally but real nevertheless; [2] The CUP is bitter; [3] The Cup is mysterious and [4] the CUP is for every follower of Jesus.

BUT today, I want to put the spotlight on Jesus, our Wonderful Savior. I love this story. I love any story that focuses on the goodness and mercy of our LORD and Savior.


Notice Jesus response to the very untimely and inappropriate question.[v. 22] “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” Jesus is focused on the cross and His eventual last trip to Jerusalem as the Passover Lamb. This a sobering moment for Jesus and He attempts to engage His followers in a conversation about His mission on this earth but it is as if He said nothing. After such a shocking announcement, here comes Salome jockeying for position for her sons in the coming kingdom. How insensitive! How rude!

I should allow Jason to tell you how I would handle this: “Good night a living Salome; you have to be kidding. I am talking about my death, about sacrificing my life for you selfish jerks. Are you crazy? You must have fell out of a stupid tree and hit every limb on the way down. I can’t believe you could be so selfish and insensitive. I was talking about my sacrifice and you walk up here with this ignorant question. How dumb can you get? [That’s how Jack would have handled it]

Notice how Jesus handles it. It does not chew her out. He would have been within His rights to chew her but He simple explains, “You don’t know what you are asking.” He doesn’t embarrass her, her doesn’t call her names. He gives her a gentle answer in spite of the fact that she has expressed more interest in herself than in Him.


There are so many things to love about Jesus: even His enemies respected Him for be honest and candid. In Matthew 22, one of the Scribes said about Jesus…Teacher, we know You are a man of integrity and You tell the truth about the way of God. We know You don’t cotton to public opinion. You can always count on Jesus to tell it like it is. The big difference between me and Jesus is I tell it like I think it is: He tells it like it is.

  1. “You do not know what you are asking.” Jesus knew that the basic problem was a lack of understanding.
  2. “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup.” James was the first martyr. John spent years in prison. Salome stood by her sister Mary at the cross.
  3. “I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left.” You will not get your request. It is not mine to give. This is Jesus gentle way of saying “NO!”


Jesus expressed no doubt that these brothers would drink the bitter cup. He did not doubt them. He did not despise them. He did not ridicule them…”You’re just a couple of losers…who needs you?” They may have loathed themselves for what they did, once the full impact of their selfishness sunk in but Jesus did not loathe them, He loved them. He did not put them down for their mistake, He put confidence in them…“You will indeed drink from my bitter cup.

I was not a great athlete in my youth but I was a want-to-be. I had the desire but I was not exuding with ability. I do OK in the county system but there the level of competition was low. I transferred to a larger school as a sophomore hoping to get a scholarship in football. That dream turned into a nightmare. For some mysterious reason that I have not figured out to this day, I became one of the coaches whipping boys. They used me for a practice dummy for two years and then cut me my Senior year. For three years this coach was in my face tearing me down. I have no doubt that he did his best to see that I would fail. The summer after I graduated, some of my buddies talked me into playing Pony-Grad baseball. It is the only year in my entire life that I played on a baseball team. I can see my coaches face but I cannot remember his name. He was a gentle man and I will never forget his kindness. I should have looked him up years ago and thanked him. I was much more comfortable in the outfield but we had no one to play shortstop. We had one guy who could field but did not have the arm. The coach move me to short against my protest. I figured I would make a half-dozen errors per game until he moved me but somehow he sensed my lack of confidence and this is what he said, “Jack, I need you at short. I know you had rather be in the outfield but I have no one else to play this position. Do not worry about errors. It doesn’t matter how many you make, you are the best I have and that is where you will play.” I have always wondered what he would have done had I made a dozen errors in the first game but I have a good season, better in the field than with the bat. I think of Jesus as a great coach: He believes in me even if I make an error.


Jesus is patient, gentle, honest and He instills confidence but perhaps above all HE IS INFINITELY GOOD. I cannot take you to a verse because there is no verse for this point, not in this text. His goodness is manifested it what He does not say. Jesus was honest and He did say that it was “A bitter cup,” and Jesus knew what was in that bitter cup but He kept it to HIMSELF. Jesus knew that He would die on a cross with Mary, Salome, James and John watching helplessly in agony. He knew the day was coming when Herod would slay James with the sword. He knew that John would live when he wanted to die. He knew he would be locked up as an old man and treated as the scum of the earth. He knew all this but did not say a word. We don’t have to know everything. We don’t need to know everything. I don’t think we could handle it.

As a parent, do you tell your children everything. I keep things from my grown children. I sure would not tell everything to my little grand children.  There are times when reality is to harsh for a child. Harold Morris spent 20 years of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. He let a gang from high school talk him into driving the get away car for a liquor store robbery. He had no idea that someone would be shot and killed in the hold up. Long story short, they did not get away. All were arrested just hours after the robbery. What Harold did not know was the they had conspired in advance to make him the scape goat. They interviewed them separately but each had the same story, “Morris was the trigger man.” They got probation and Harold Morris went to prison for murder. After 20 years he got out on good behavior but a part of the deal was that he had to work as a coach at a children’s home. Harold was an all state athlete and he became the track coach for this institution that also had a school. His best athlete was a boy named Mike. Mike qualified to go to the Georgia State Track meet. Harold was excited because it meant a trip but Mike refused to go because the meet was on Thursday which was visitation day at the Institution. When Harold ask Mike why he wouldn’t go, Mike said, “Thursday is visitation day and my mama may come to see me.” Harold said, “Son, you have been here for ten years, how many times in that 10 years has your mama come to see you?” Mike dropped his head and said, “Not once.” “That is right” said Harold, “and she is not coming this Thursday or the next Thursday or any Thursday and the sooner you get that in your head the better off you will be.” Harold said, he dropped his head and went to his room and never spoke to me again. He said, “I did not realize that I had committed the unpardonable sin. That child was clinging to the hope that his mother would come get him someday and I dashed his hopes. He never forgave me.

Jesus could have put enough reality on Salome and her boys that it would have crushed them but He refused to tell them what was in the cup.


I want to close by going back to the beginning… [v.17] As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. 18 Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. 19 Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Jesus begged them to listen but they did not listen. They were insensitive to His plea for sympathy. What about you? Are you insensitive to Christ passion, to His suffering and death? You eternal destiny depends on how you respond to His death.