She Meant Well
by Rev. Randy Brown
Well, she meant well. That’s what I want you to remember. Partially. I want to ask you a question. Have you ever spoken words, and the minute that the words roll off your tongue, you wish you could just grab them and bring them back? I’m not going to ask for a show of hands, but I can tell from your reaction that you know exactly what I’m talking about. Perhaps we’re speaking in public, or perhaps we’re in a discussion with a family member, or a close friend, and we say something, and the minute it rolls off, we thought, why did I say that? Or perhaps we’re just kidding with someone and we see somehow the sudden pain that, that kidding puts on their face, and in their life, and we say, “I wish I hadn’t have said that.” Or perhaps, it’s another way of saying something, and we just wished we had kept our mouth shut. We’ve been there, we’ve all been there. We’ve probably been there recently.
Well, I heard a story about a young preacher boy – and this happens from time to time, when we, try as we might, to say the right thing, sometimes don’t think it through enough – I heard the story about a young preacher who was just starting out, it was his first funeral, and I still remember mine. He was overwhelmed by the generosity and the support of neighbors, and church members of this particular church family when they lost their loved one. He wanted at the beginning of the service to step forward and to thank them for all their kind generosity, and how neighborly and Christ like they were to this family. Instead of doing that, here is what he said. He said, “I want to thank each and every one of you who had any part in making this funeral possible.” Sometimes we say the wrong things, don’t we? Sometimes we just want to reach back and grab those words and bring them back.
Somehow I think Zebedee’s wife can relate to that. She was married to Zebedee and we don’t know her name, but we also know her sons, James and John. The story that I read a moment ago tells us the time that she came in to Jesus and she had request. She said, “Jesus, I hadn’t had the chance to really get to know you, but you know my husband, and you know my two boys. I just want you to know what I think.” We ever prayed that way? “I just want you to know what I think Jesus, and here’s what I think. When you come into your Kingdom, and when you establish your kingdom, my two boys need to be sitting with you. One on your right hand, and one on your left hand in the place of honor.”
She said, “Jesus, I’ve looked at the other disciples, those other 10, and they don’t stack up to my boys. Jesus, my boys are so photogenic that they're just going to make you look better when sitting with you at the table. They got the highest resumes, they got the best pedigree, and Jesus, you’d do well to have them sit by you when you come into your kingdom. I just want you to know that. I’m nominating, Jesus, I’m nominating my boys to sit with you when that day comes.” A mother’s request. Well, I’ve always heard that when you pray, you need to be simple and you need to be humble. I think she was simple, because Jesus clearly got the message of what she wanted. She was humble because the first verse says that when she approached him, she knelt down before him and made her request.
So, those 2 things, there was nothing wrong with sharing her request. There’s nothing wrong with the way she did it because she did it very humbly. She meant well. We have a mother’s request, but here comes the Savior’s response. The Savior’s response was, “Do you really know what you’re asking? Do you really understand what you’re asking? Because, to sit at the seat of honor means that you’re going to have to go through what I’m going to have to go through.” We want to do that, we want it when it’s the place of honor, but sometimes we don’t want to have to go through what we need to go through to get there. She was pushing her agenda. You ever done that? You ever done that with God? Push your agenda, and your agenda is the only one that matters?
Jesus knew how much of a struggle that was because the time came when He was in The Garden of Gethsemane, and He was praying, “Lord, please let this cup pass from me. I don’t want to have to go to the cross.” That was His agenda. When it got to the end of the day, He surrendered His agenda to the Father’s agenda, and said, “Lord, not my will, but thine be done.” Careful who’s agenda that we may be pushing. You know, we want to follow Him when everything is going well. On Palm Sunday, when they’re singing, “Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” we want to follow Him then. Oh, the parades going great! When it comes to Good Friday, and they start yelling, “Crucify Him, crucify him,” we want to get to the back of the line. We want to get away from there.
When it’s going well, we’re all there. We want to go to the Promise Land, but we don’t want to go to the wilderness. We push our agenda. They wanted to sit. He had been teaching them all of his life to serve. Who’s agenda do we follow? Sometimes when we push our agenda, we push God away. Let me share with you this story.
Years ago, there was a famous surgeon by the name of Leo Winters. It was thought that Dr. Winters could perform surgeries that nobody else could perform. He got a call one morning. About 1:00 in the morning, there had been a tragic wreck in the city that he was living in. And the nurses told Dr. Winters, “You need to get here, you need to get here quick. There’s been a major accident. The one person in it survived. He doesn’t have much time, you’ve got to hurry.” At 1:00 in the morning, Dr. Winters gets up and he heads toward the hospital. He thinks that he can go the shortcut, but by going the shortcut, he goes through the roughest area of town. When he’s just about through the roughest area of town, getting close to the hospital, he has to stop at a red light.
When he does that a man violently jerks open the car door at about 1:15 in the morning, throws Dr. Winters out, Dr. Winters begs, “Please, please don’t run off and leave me, please don’t leave me. I’ve got to go to the hospital.” He tried to tell him the story of where he was going. The man said, “If you say another word, I’m going to kill you right here.” Dr. Winters sat there on the pavement and watched the man drive off into the night. The only identifying marks that Dr. Winters could remember was that the man had on a grey cap, a brown leather jacket, and a dirty flannel shirt. Finally, someone came along and picked up Dr. Winters, got him to the hospital, he walked into the nurses station to get ready to do the surgery, and the nurse told him, “Doc, if you had been here 30 minutes earlier, you could have saved him, but he didn’t make it.”
Dr. Winters told the nurse what had happened, and she said, “Well, I’m so sorry,” and Dr. Winters expressed that too. The nurse said, “Doc, the father is very much beside himself. Would you go down in the waiting room and just try to console him?” Dr. Winters said, “Sure I will. I’ll go do that.” He walked into the waiting room, and there sat a man with a grey cap, and a brown leather jacket, and a dirty flannel shirt. He had forced from his car, the only person who could save his son’s life. Sometimes that’s what happens when we push our own agenda instead of God’s agenda. There was a mother’s request. There was a Savior’s response. Now there was a disciple’s reaction, because in verse 24, it says that when the other 10 found out about this, they were indignant. Do you know what that means? They were mad. Why were they mad?
You could make the case that they just didn’t have enough gumption to make the same request that James’ and John’s, mama made. They had to fake it from time to time. “Oh, I deserve to sit there.” Though, I think they were upset that James and John, got their mama to make the request. She would do it, and she did it. There was a stern rebuke. They just weren’t brave enough to ask. The disciples, they were always being petty about something, and Jesus realized that they were being petty once again. He told them that greatness doesn’t come by sitting at the table. Greatness comes by serving at the table – for the greatest among us is the one who serves.
Back in the early days of this country, when the war was going on, there was a group of soldiers out in the field one day and they were mending a fence. The Corporal was in charge, he was watching every move. They were short handed, but the Corporal, he kind of thought highly of himself and he just stood there barking out orders and supervising even though they were short handed. A man in civilian clothes came by and said to the Corporal, “What’s going on here?” He said, “Well, we’re mending fences, we’re short-handed, but my men, they’ll get it done.” He said, “Aren’t you going to help them?” He said, “No, I’m just going to stand here and supervise.” The man in plain clothes got off the horse. He went over to where the other guys were working and began to help them.
A couple of hours later when the job was done, the man dressed in plain clothes got back on his horse and said to the Corporal, “If you ever are like this again, and you ever need more help, call your Commander in Chief.” The man rode off. The Corporal asked somebody, “Who was that guy?” It was none other than George Washington, the Commander in Chief. He got off and he helped. We have a mother’s request, we have a Savior’s response, we have a disciple’s reaction, and then we have a Savior’s remedy. God saw our need. He sees your need and my need. If our need was, and our most basic need was an education, he would have sent a teacher. If our basic need was technology, he would have sent a scientist. If our need was money, he would have sent a banker. But, our need was forgiveness. He sent a Savior. He sent a Savior.
He did not come into the world to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. He came to become one of us. Years ago, in the city of Louisville, Kentucky, it was time for the State Fair. A young boy found out that the State Fair was going to be not too far from his house, and that the governor of the state of Kentucky was going to be there. He got excited because he had never seen a governor before. He told his friends, he told his mom and dad, “Dad, I’m going to go to the fair that day because I want to meet the governor. I want to shake his hand.” “Well son, we’ll do the best we can. Son, if you’re going to do that, you’ve got to get all your chores done, and I’ll pay you a little extra if you need me to and we’ll make sure that you have enough money to go to the State Fair and that you can meet the governor.” They made this deal between father and son.
It wasn’t to0 long until the boy kinda let loose of his end of the deal. His father was upset with him and he grounded him for 2 weeks. His father wouldn’t back up on that. Even though his boy, every time he saw him would remind him that, “Dad, you can’t ground me. I’ve got to go to the State Fair. I’ve got to meet the governor.” The day before the governor was going to be there, he tried one last time to tell his father, “I really want to go. I really want to do this.” His father said, “Son, I’ll tell you what we’ll do. If you’ll get up in the morning early, and you get all your chores done, and you get everything done that you’re suppose to do, you can have the rest of the day and you can go to the State Fair, and maybe meet the governor, but I’m not taking you. You have to get there on your own.”
The next morning before daylight, that little boy was up. He was working hard as he could work. He did all the chores around the farm that he could possibly do, and it came time about mid-morning when he was through. The father said, “Okay, you can go on to the State Fair grounds. You’re going to have to get there and you’re going to have to get back. I’m not going to help you.” About halfway through his walk, a long black limousine pulled up beside the little boy walking down the road. A distinguished looking grey haired gentleman rolled down the back window and said, “Son, would you like to ride?” He said, “I sure would!” He got in the car, and he said, “Son, where are you going?” He said, “I’m going to the State Fair.” He said, “The governors going to be there and I’ve never met a governor, and I want to meet the governor.”
They go on, and they talk about different things. They pull into the fair grounds, and the bands there playing, and the people are going crazy, and just a great celebration, and the grey haired distinguished older gentleman said, “Son, now do you know who the governor is?” He said, “Well, it’s got to be one of us.” He came as one of us. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. He did for us what we could not do for our self. Let me illustrate and I’m finished.
In 1965, Game 7 of the World Series, the Dodgers were at bat in the bottom of the ninth, the game was tied. There was a man by the name of Lou Johnson at bat. The pitcher threw the ball right down the middle of the plate, and Lou Johnson hit it out of sight, and the game was over, and the Dodgers won. That pitch and that swing earned Lou Johnson, the Most Valuable Player award for the 65 World Series. He continued on, played for a few years. Retired in 1971. His life at that point began a downward spiral and he lost everything he had. He lost his bat that he hit the home run with. He lost his glove that he played with. He even lost his World Series Most Valuable Player ring. For 30 years, his life was like that.
In 2001, 30 years later, someone made the advertisement on the internet that they were going to sell, by auction, Lou Johnson’s MVP ring. The owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers found out about it, made a phone call to whoever it was that had it, settled on a price before the ring was ever auctioned off. The owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers wrote a check for $3,457. He bought Lou Johnson’s ring back. He went to meet Lou Johnson and he gave him back his ring 30 years later. Now, that’s grace because the owner of the Dodgers did something for Lou Johnson that Lou Johnson couldn’t do for himself, and that’s grace.
I wonder, anybody ever done that for you? Absolutely! For you were bought with a price, and Jesus Christ came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. Including us. Including us. Can you say hallelujah today?
Can you say it like you mean it?
Can you tell somebody this week? Boy, it got quiet. Tell somebody this week that He paid the price for you and for them, and that’s grace. In the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.