You do not know what you ask

26 Apr

The American evangelical church is moving into a time where open faithful biblical Christianity will be seen and treated as not simply silly but threatening and intolerable in society.  Professing Christians who want Christianity to yield them glory, honor, respect, and success will be sorely disappointed, perhaps falling away as the heat rises.  What did Jesus say to such as these?

From J.C. Ryle’s expository thoughts on Matthew 20: 20-23

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, kneeling and asking a certain thing of him. He said to her, “What do you want?”

She said to him, “Command that these, my two sons, may sit, one on your right hand, and one on your left hand, in your Kingdom.”

But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They said to him, “We are able.”

He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it is for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

[One] thing that we should notice in these verses, is the solemn reproof which our Lord gives to the ignorant request of the mother of Zebedee’s children and her two sons. He says to them, “You don’t know what you are asking.” They had asked to share in their Master’s reward, but they had not considered that they must first be partakers in their Master’s sufferings. (1 Pet 4:13.) They had forgotten that those who would stand with Christ in glory, must drink of His cup of suffering, and be baptized with His baptism. They did not see that those who carry the cross, and those alone, shall receive the crown. Well might our Lord say, “You don’t know what you are asking.”

But do we never commit the same mistake that the sons of Zebedee committed? Do we never fall into their error, and make thoughtless, inconsiderate requests? Do we not often say things in prayer without “counting the cost,” and ask for things to be granted to us, without reflecting how much our supplications involve? These are heart-searching questions. It may well be feared that many of us cannot give them a satisfactory answer.

We ask that our souls may be saved and go to heaven, when we die. It is a good request indeed. But are we prepared to take up the cross, and follow Christ? Are we willing to give up the world for His sake? Are we ready to put off the old man, and put on the new–to fight, to labor, and to run so as to obtain? Are we ready to withstand a taunting world, and endure hardships for Christ’s sake? What shall we say? If we are not so ready, our Lord might say to us also, “You don’t know what you are asking.”

We ask that God would make us holy. It is a good request indeed. But are we prepared to be sanctified by any process that God in His wisdom may call on us to pass through? Are we ready to be purified by affliction, weaned from the world by bereavements, drawn nearer to God by losses, sicknesses, and sorrow? Alas! these are hard questions. But if we are not, our Lord might well say to us, “You don’t know what you are asking.”

Let us leave these verses with a solemn resolution to consider well what we are about, when we draw near to God in prayer. Let us beware of thoughtless, inconsiderate and rash petitions. Well might Solomon say, “Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter anything before God.” (Eccles. 5:2.)



One Response to “You do not know what you ask”


  1. You do not know what you ask - May 7, 2013

    […] Presbyterian Church (PCA) with his wife, Natalie, and three children, Caleb, Noah, and Sarah Ann. This article first appeared on his blog, The Reformed Mind, and is used with […]


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