Read the Gospels, and you will see that the relationship the disciples had with Jesus was special. It is clear that Jesus was the master, and they were his students. But, to imagine that their relationship was cold and mechanical would be a significant error. Jesus loved the Apostles, and the Apostles loved Jesus. That is demonstrated in Mark 10:35 when James and John, whom Jesus called the “sons of thunder,” come to Jesus and say “Teacher, we want you to do for us anything that we ask of you.” The question almost seems scandalous. Two creatures approach the creator and ask him to “do whatever we ask of you.” Perhaps the original Greek conveys it better, but in reading the English translation, it doesn’t come off so much as a question as it does a demand.
Jesus’ response might surprise you. He doesn’t retort “How dare you!” There is no admonishment at all. Instead, he just replies, “what do you wish me to do for you?” It almost sounds like a customer service rep, “how can I help you.”
We are going to continue with the story, but before we do, it is important that we pause for a moment and take this in. There is a vital lesson here. Jesus doesn’t get mad at the apostles for asking things of him. He is not put out. There is no sense of frustration conveyed. Far from that, his reply comes off as if he is ready and eager to help.
This makes sense when we remember what Jesus teaches about the Father’s love. In Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus teaches plainly, “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find. . .” He goes on to describe how the Father is a good father by saying,
Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for bread, or a snake when he asks for fish. If you then who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.
You may be thinking, “but Chris, Jesus is talking about the father, not himself. What does this have to do with Jesus?” Well, towards the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Apostles, if you see me, you have seen the Father. Jesus is the revelation of the Father’s love.
If you have not picked up on it, God wants us to come to Him. He wants us to ask for the things that are on our heart. He wants us to give him permission to be the good Father that He is, in our lives.
John and James demonstrate that. They come to Jesus with a ridiculous, self-serving, request, and he doesn’t admonish them. . . but, he also doesn’t give them what they are asking for either. Remember, God is a good Father. Jesus loves us. Good fathers know that love is not the same as enabling. This is the second take away we need to consider. Yes, God wants us to ask big things of him, but he loves us enough to say no to us too.
Unfortunately, because of this, many of us have stopped asking. The notion that “God doesn’t do what he used to do” has crept in. The thing is, just a few verses earlier in this same Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that you can only enter Heaven like a child. I have six kids. I have learned that children when they know they are loved, don’t stop asking, even when they hear their father say “no”. Children are persistent, maddeningly so. God wants us to have faith like children, especially when we pray. He wants us to pester Him. It’s true. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells the story or a widow who had been given a wrong judgment in court. Rather than give up, she pesters the judge night and day, harasses him really, until he relents and gives a good judgment. Jesus is telling us to do the same. If even an unjust judge will be moved by persistence, how much more will the Father.
Far from being annoyed by our prayer, even our silly ones, God desires that we come to Him. That doesn’t mean he is always going to do what we want. His desire is for our good. What it does mean is, that like children who trust in the love of their parents, we too need to trust in the love of God. Like children, we need to persistently come to the Lord with expectation that his desire, more than any earthly Father, is to bless His children.