In Mark 10:35-45, the sons of Zebedee come to Jesus with a bold request. “Teacher…grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left,” they say, clearly jockeying for an exalted position in The Coming Kingdom. Jesus responds with some wise words, saying that His people don’t lord it over each other like the Gentiles, “even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve,” he concludes. This is where we typically launch into an encouragement to humility or a warning against undue pride – and, certainly, these are important points. There is, however, another dimension to this exchange, the dimension of how we can understand God’s Will for our lives.
When younger people think about God’s will they might think about where to go to college, or who they’ll end up marrying, or what career field they’ll enter. If you have a few more years on you, you might think about whether to take that promotion, or if homeschooling is right for your family, or about downsizing after the kids move off. For James and John, it seemed to be about knowing their role in Jesus’ glorious reign.
In reality, however, they weren’t really looking for God’s will as much as they for affirmation. I think the same is often true of us; the young woman seeking out the name of the man she’s going to marry, in reality, just wants to know that she’s going to end up being cherished and loved by someone. The young couple that wants to know which town they’re supposed to live in is often just looking for a way to short circuit the confusion and chaos of young adulthood. But look at Jesus’ response to James’ and John’s request. “To sit at my right or my left is not for me to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” In other words, God has a plan, but He’s under no obligation to let you in on it. You don’t need to know right now.
Mark doesn’t explicitly tell us, but I can’t imagine James and John are satisfied with this answer, so Jesus begins to explain what they do need to know right now. I’ll paraphrase; you don’t need to the secret plans of God, because that’s not what God’s will is about. God’s will is about learning to become servants; understanding that I’m about to give my life up for you.” In other words, God’s will for their lives was not so much about the position they’d be given, but about the kind of people they’d become.
Today Jesus might say that the woman you’ll marry is not as important as the husband you are supposed to become. The place you show up for work in the morning is not as important as the person you are when you get there. For those who are a little farther along, the neighborhood you move to after the kids move out is not as important as the neighbor you’ll be when you get there. As the Apostle Paul wrote, God’s will is whatever. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). God’s will is more about knowing Him and conforming yourself to Him than discovering every twist and turn of this cryptic path He wants you to walk. So, fix your eyes on Jesus, discover who He is and what He has done for you, and commit yourself to learning to do life His way, and then wherever you end up, you can be sure to find yourself right in the middle of God’s Will.