BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 21, Day 4: Matthew 20:17-34

Summary of passage:  Jesus tells the disciples as they are walking towards Jerusalem that he will be betrayed, handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law, mocked, flogged, die by crucifixion, and rise again in 3 days.  The mother of Zedebee’s sons (James and John) comes to Jesus to ask that her sons be elevated to sit by Jesus’ right and left in the kingdom.  Jesus told her she has no idea what she is asking even though she will drink from the cup.  Jesus says that those spots are for God to grant.

When the other disciples heard what the mother of James and John had asked Jesus, they were indignant.  Jesus called them together and said that they are not like the Gentiles whose lord reigns over them.  Instead, if you want to become great, you must serve and be like a slave just like the Son of Man came to serve and die for others.

Jesus grants two blind men sight as they are leaving Jericho.


8a)  “The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.  They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.  On the third day he will be raised to life!”

b)  They are still picturing Jesus’ kingdom as earthly and that he will sit on a throne where one of them will sit on his right and his left.  So James and John (or their mother) decide to beat the others to this position of status and ask for it.  The fact that the two asked for it shows they have no idea.  The fact that the others were angry and argued over it shows they didn’t understand.  And Luke tells us that the disciples did not understand because the meaning was hidden from them.

They didn’t understand Jesus’ came to save us from our sins for a heavenly kingdom.

c)  Jesus said he came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many, showing his greatness.

9a)  The cup symbolizes God’s wrath and when it is poured out is God’s judgment on man.  Keep reading in Isaiah and it says that the Lord will take the cup out of man’s hand and man shall never drink of it again.  Instead it will be put into the hands of man’s tormentors (Isaiah 51:22-23).  Psalm says God’s judges and He pours out His judgement on the earth and the wicked drink it (or receive) His judgement.

b)  He drunk it to save man from God’s judgment, to take upon himself the sins that God would judge.  To serve as a ransom for us.  To die for our sins so that we might live in righteousness and be healed.

c)  First, they both suffered (as all Christians do for their faith).  James was martyred by King Herod and John was banished to the island of Patmos (a hard-labor penal colony) because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.  Second, when they died, they rose to heaven to share in God’s righteousness.

d)  God’s cup, the cup of Jesus, the cup that contains Jesus’ blood that forgives us for our sins

10)  Personal Question.  My answer:  First, the man’s acknowledgement of Jesus as king.  Second, the fact the man would not be quiet nor rebuked.  He pursued Jesus with even more passion.  Third, the man asked for exactly what he wanted.  Fourth, that the man’s faith healed him.  Fifth, they followed him.

Me:  I will acknowledge Jesus as Lord in my life.  I will not be quiet about it nor be rebuked.  I will pursue him with even more passion.  I will ask for exactly what I want in my life to happen.  I will have the faith that Jesus will grant my petitions.  I will follow him along the road he leads me on.

Conclusions:  The story of the blind men being healed brings together beautifully all that we have been learning in Matthew.  How we must acknowledge Jesus as Lord in our lives.  How we are not to be rebuked because of our faith.  How we must continue to pursue Jesus with all of our hearts.  How we need to ask Jesus for what we want and believe he will do it.  How we must follow him.  Always.  Great, great little lesson packed in 6 verses!

I find it interesting how the mother came in Matthew’s version to ask for her sons.  How often do we do this for our kids?  One daughter of mine doesn’t like asking adults for things and since she is young, I do it.  Eventually, she must learn to ask for herself what she herself desires.  Here, we have a mother asking for her two grown sons.  Once a mother, always a mother!  Always wanting what’s best for her kids!

This is probably the most glaring example of how the disciples still don’t get it as they jockey for earthly positions.  I find it interesting though why God would hide this knowledge from them.  It’s hard to fault the disciples when the knowledge has not been revealed to them.  Yes, they should have figured it out by now but they have no help it seems from God and definitely no Holy Spirit yet to guide them.

God has His reasons and I’m hoping to get a better glimpse as we get closer and closer to Jesus’ death in Matthew.

I loved the God’s cup study.  I know we discussed this in the study of Isaiah but it has been a few years!  Another great example of my mantra “to keep reading” because the cup is more fully explained in Isaiah than BSF had us read.

End Notes:  Matthew 27:55-56 tells us that the mother of James and John had been following him from Galilee to care for his needs.  Hence, she would have intimate knowledge of Jesus and the disciples and her sons desires.

Note the mother asks but who does Jesus respond to?  “them”  This shows us that James and John are standing beside their mother as she is asking.  She is their voice.  We must remember that Jesus just told them  that the disciples will sit on 12 thrones, judging, during the Second Coming (Matthew 19:28).  So they are probably wanting to sit the closest to him on these thrones.

James was the first martyr and the first to die of the disciples.  John lived the longest and was the only disciple to not be martyred and had to be prepared to receive God’s word that became must of the New Testament.

Mark gives us the phrase “be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with”, which shows us exactly the suffering they would endure.

Jesus said outright how they (disciples) should be different than the Gentiles.  Today, we can say how believers should be different from unbelievers in the same sense.  We are held to a higher standard and Jesus here expected more from his disciples than petty jealously and concern over rank.

Ransom here commonly referred to in ancient times the price paid to free a slave.  Here, Jesus refers to the price he paid as he frees us from the bondage of our sins.

Scholars connect the “many” here with the “many” in Isaiah 53:11 & 12.

Map of Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem showing Jericho:

Map showing all of First-Century Israel:

Final Note:  I love how Jesus knows; yet asks us anyways, “What do you want me to do for you?”  We need to be just as clear about our needs and wants as Jesus is.  He stops to hear us and listen.

“You do not have, because you do not ask God.”  James 4:2

Jesus is passing us by.  Will we sit and be quiet and say nothing or will we shout out to him, get his attention, and ask for our most pressing needs?

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