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Matthew 20:20-23 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: A Selfish Request Rejected

Matthew 20:20-23 – A Selfish Request Rejected

|| Mark 10:35-40

MT20:20 Later[1] the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and bowed[2] wishing to ask a favor from him. MT20:21 Jesus asked her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Promise[3] that my two sons may be enthroned with you[4] in your kingdom – one on your left and one on your right.” MT20:22 But Jesus answered her, “You do not realize[5] what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?”[6] The [two disciples] said, “We are able!” MT20:23 Jesus told them, “You will really drink my Cup. However, this sitting on my right and left is not my decision to make.[7] Rather it belongs to those my Father has prepared.”[8]

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[1] Later: Some time has elapsed from the mountain retreat.

[2] Bowed: The Greek is PROSKUNOUSA. Or, KJV: worshipping him; KNX: falling on her knees; TCNT: bowing to the ground. Research the word worship.

[3] Promise: Or, KJV: grant; ASV: command; PME: please say.

[4] Enthroned with you: Literally, “sit.” Compare Revelation 3:21. See notes on Matthew 19:28.

[5] You do not realize: It is likely this is directed at the two disciples, James and John, also called the “sons of thunder.” The parallel accounts have them making the request (likely through their mother). Or, NEB: you do not understand; MON: none of you know what you are asking.

[6] To drink the cup I am about to drink: The KJV adds: baptized with the baptism. The “cup” is something to drink, share, or partake of. Compare notes on Matthew 26:39 (Mark 14:36; John 18:11). Paul says something similar at Romans 6:3-5. The disciples are destined to share a fate and life course similar to their Lord.

[7] Not my decision to make: Literally, KJV: not mine to give. It seems evident that there are certain matters that are the prerogative of the Father. Compare Acts 1:7. The Son has limited authority and knowledge while the Father’s is absolute.

[8] It belongs to those my Father has prepared: Or, KJV: it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared; KNX: it is for those for whom my Father has destined it; NEB: it is for those to whim it has already been assigned. The conclusions drawn from this are many. Some see predestination here. Others hold different views. It is interesting that the Nazarene just doesn’t say there are no such privileged positions in heaven. The whole subject still relates back to the appointment of Peter in Matthew 16:18 and the ongoing argument over who is the greatest among them. We ourselves are embarrassed that two of the apostles would get their mother to ask the Lord for this privilege. How the others felt we will now see.

The Greek word translated “prepared” is HETOIMASTAI. “Strong’s #2090 HETOIMAZO {het-oy-mad’-zo} from 2092; TDNT – 2:704, 266; AV – prepare 29, make ready 10, provide 1; 40. 1) to make ready, prepare; 1a) to make the necessary preparations, get everything ready; 2) metaph. 2a) drawn from the oriental custom of sending on before kings on their journeys persons to level the roads and make them passable; 2b) to prepare the minds of men to give the Messiah a fit reception and secure his blessings.” The main idea may be no more than that God has purposed something according to His will and thus has made all the preparations necessary to accomplish this.

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Preceding

Matthew 20:1-7 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: The Kingdom and Vineyard Workers

Matthew 20:8-16 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Last, First; First, Last

Matthew 20:17-19 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Onward to Jerusalem!

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