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  • Writer's pictureJosh Phillips

The Counter-Intuitive Nature of Jesus- Part Three: Is That Seat Taken?

Can we climb the "corporate ladder" of spirituality to earn prestige and position in God's kingdom?

In parts one and two of this blog series we looked at specific passages of scripture describing the birth and ministry of Jesus and this continuing theme of Jesus challenging our reason. In this third installment of this series we will look at arguably the most profound confrontation to our logic by looking at the death of Jesus and the events leading to it.

Climb the Ladder

It’s easy these days in our performance-based society to be driven to be the best. We are frequently being evaluated at our jobs to justify our worth and usefulness to our employer. In some cases we are motivated to perform out of fear to avoid disappointing our superiors but in other cases we perform to earn recognition and appreciation. Maybe we are angling for that promotion we’ve been eyeing for years or attempting that third run at the illustrious “employee of the month” title. Whatever it may be, we have an expectant disposition when it comes to our work and self-perceived value.

My Mom Wants To Ask You Something

The disciples shared this view as well. In Matthew 20:20 we read the story of the mother of two of Jesus’s disciples, James and John, submitting a proposition of sorts. She asks Jesus, “Promise that these two sons of mine may sit, on your right and the other on your left, in your kingdom.” These were two of only twelve men who were closest to the one person all of Israel had been anxiously awaiting for years. This was the Messiah. The One the Torah and prophets had spoken about and these two sons of Zebedee were working right alongside him during this historic time. This request could have had some legitimacy to it potentially and may have seemed reasonable to James and John. Why not?

Well, Jesus quickly rejects this notion. He tells them, “You don’t know what you are asking” and goes on to say “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” He didn’t give them a “maybe.” He didn’t give them a list of tasks that a person worthy of this position would have to complete. He didn’t even give a moral standard that would have to be met.

My Right and My Left

What’s curiously ironic about this story is that several chapters later we read about Jesus being nailed to a cross where he would ultimately defeat death and redeem humanity. There is an interesting juxtaposition taking place here. In this extraordinarily significant moment of human history, where Jesus is about to conquer sin’s grip on humanity, there is someone “on his right” and another “on his left.” They aren’t renowned religious figures, government officials, or prominent, wealthy people. They are two criminals. They are two thieves. They are two individuals who are guilty of wrongdoing, destined for death. This is the Gospel.

There is an interesting juxtaposition taking place here.

This image shatters our natural intuition that leads us to think that our morality, position of authority, or spiritual resume is anything to boast in. As easy as it might be to slip into this mindset, even if only for a short while, Jesus teaches us things like “the first will be last and the last will be first.” The kingdom He speaks of is a real challenge to our natural minds. Why is this the case and what can I take away from this? In part 4, the finale of this series, I want to get into the application of all these situations that have been described in the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus. What does this counter-intuitive nature of Jesus have to do with me? I hope you will join me in the final installment of this blog series as we attempt to answer this question.

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