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Matthew 20:20-23 & meaning...

Are 

you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

Matthew 20:22

Context

Matthew 20 [17.] As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and will hand him over to the Gentiles to mock, to scourge, and to crucify; and the third day he will be raised up.”

Matthew 20 [20.] Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, kneeling and asking a certain thing of him. He said to her, “What do you want?”

She said to him, “Command that these, my two sons, may sit, one on your right hand, and one on your left hand, in your Kingdom.”

Matthew 20 [22.] But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They said to him, “We are able.”

Matthew 20 [23.] He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it is for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Matthew 20 [24.] When the ten heard it, they were indignant with the two brothers.


Meaning:

  • A Mother's Request:

The narrative begins with the mother of James and John approaching Jesus, kneeling before Him, and making a request on behalf of her sons. This act reflects a cultural norm of deference and honor, as well as a desire for prominence and status for her children.

  • Seeking Positions of Honor:

The heart of the request is unveiled when she asks that her sons may sit on Jesus' right and left hand in His Kingdom. This plea isn't merely about physical proximity; it's a request for positions of honor, authority, and prominence in the anticipated Kingdom of Jesus.

  • The Cup and Baptism:

Jesus responds with a probing question, asking if James and John are willing to drink from the cup and be baptized with the baptism He is about to undergo. This imagery of the cup and baptism symbolizes the suffering, sacrifice, and challenges that await Jesus on His journey to the cross.

Cross-Reference: Mark 10:38-39: "But Jesus said to them, 'You don’t know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?' They said to him, 'We are able.' And Jesus said to them, 'The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.'"

  • A Lesson in Servanthood:

In Jesus' response, He acknowledges that James and John will indeed partake in His cup and baptism, but the granting of positions in the Kingdom is not within His authority. Instead, He introduces a profound principle, challenging the traditional understanding of greatness.

Cross-Reference: Matthew 23:11-12: "The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." This echoes Jesus' teaching on true greatness, emphasizing humility and servanthood.


Practical Application:

Servanthood Over Ambition: The passage calls us to examine our aspirations. Are we seeking positions of honor and recognition, or are we embracing the call to servanthood and humility, following the example set by Jesus?

Understanding the Cost: Jesus prompts reflection on the cost of discipleship. Drinking from the cup and undergoing baptism symbolize the challenges and sacrifices that accompany following Him. Are we ready to embrace the fullness of discipleship, even when it involves difficulty?

God's Sovereign Plan: The acknowledgment that positions in the Kingdom are prepared by the Father emphasizes God's sovereignty in the unfolding of His redemptive plan. It invites us to trust in His divine orchestration of roles and responsibilities.


In conclusion, Matthew 20:20-23 unfolds a moment of profound teaching by Jesus, challenging our perspectives on greatness and authority. It directs our focus towards the sacrificial nature of discipleship, the call to embrace servanthood, and the recognition that positions in the Kingdom are within God's sovereign plan. As we navigate our journeys of faith, may we heed the lessons embedded in this interaction, embracing humility, servanthood, and a deep trust in God's divine purposes.


PIB Scriptures are derived from the World English Bible