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§ 238. The Request of Salome.—The Ambition of the Disciples rebuked. (Matt., xx., 20-28; Mark, x., 35-45.)

The worldly views of Christ’s Messiahship which had been revived in the minds of the disciples by the reception he had met with from the festal caravan, could hardly fail to be strengthened by what occurred in Jericho. His own teachings had not yet fully convinced them; and these impressions upon their senses were stronger, for the moment, than those which he had made upon their souls.

The sons of Salome, James and John, enjoyed Christ’s closest intimacy; the latter, indeed, always sat at his right hand. In view of this intimate relation, and not without the knowledge of her sons,642642   According to Mark, the brothers presented the request directly to Christ; according to Matthew (which seems the more likely), they did it through their mother. Christ’s address to them (Matt., xx., 22) presupposes that really they made the request. she came to Christ and prayed him, that when Messiah’s kingdom should be outwardly realized, her two sons might sit, the one on his right hand, the other on his left.

As usual, Christ did not combat these ideas of his kingdom directly and at length; he wished to destroy the root in the hearts of his followers. He taught them anew that they were to share with him, not places of honour, but pains and sufferings. “Ye know not what ye ask. Can ye drink of the cup (of suffering) that I shall drink of?” To this they replied, probably without duly weighing the import of his words, “We are able.” And he answered: “I can, indeed, impart to you the fellowship of my sufferings; but rank in the kingdom of God depends not upon my will, but upon the allotment of the Father” (it was not to be an arbitrary allotment, but the highest necessity of Divine wisdom and justice).

The disciples were indignant at the ambition of James and John; but Christ called them all about him, and showed them how inconsistent such strifes were with their relations to each other and the spirit 348that ought to animate them. There could not be (he told them) among them such relations of superiority and subordination as existed in civil communities; the communion of the Divine kingdom could know of none such. They were to emulate each other only in serving each other with self-sacrificing love; like their Lord and Master, who had come, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to sacrifice his life for the ransom of many. Whosoever was greatest in this was the greatest among them.643643   Luke does not give this narrative, but mentions (xxii., 24) a similar dispute for rank among the disciples, and recites these similar expressions of our Lord. It is probably out of place, as such a contention could hardly have arisen at the last meal, after the institution of the Sacrament. The collocation may have arisen from the fact that the symbolical washing of feet, so striking a rebuke of this ambitious spirit, was connected with the last meal.

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