He took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves.

What kind of teacher was Jesus? The kind who never wasted an opportunity to help his students grow and learn! Some of his lessons were prepared ahead of time; others arose from the disciples’ questions or reactions. In today’s Gospel, we see these kinds of interactions with his closest disciples.

Jesus teaches prepared lessons. He explains to his apostles why he is heading to Jerusalem and what will happen to him there. When these terrible events unfold, he wants them to understand that it’s not a setback; it’s essential to God’s plan of salvation. He knows they probably won’t understand this at the moment of his death, but he wants to assure them that death will not have the final word. He will be raised.

Jesus also responds to situations that arise. At this crucial moment, the mother of James and John approaches Jesus. With a patient smile, Jesus invites her to tell him what she wants, and she asks for privileged places for her sons in the coming kingdom. He makes sure James and John understand that following him involves sacrifice and suffering long before it results in honor. When they say that they are ready, Jesus doesn’t contradict them. He accepts their good intentions and affirms that they will walk in his footsteps.

Jesus doesn’t let a teachable moment pass him by. He observes how this conversation affects the other ten apostles. They are indignant! Why should James and John be given higher status than the rest of them? We can imagine Jesus sighing deeply as he uses the opportunity to draw a striking portrait of servant leadership, so different from the domination that worldly leaders exercise (Matthew 20:25-26). He drives the lesson home by highlighting his own example—an example of service and love that he wants them to follow (20:28).

We can easily imagine ourselves in these very human scenes. How privileged we are to have such a patient, perceptive, and gentle teacher! He knows just what lesson we need at each moment in our lives. So ask Jesus what he wants to teach you today. Then sit at his feet, as his disciples did, and listen to him.

“Jesus, I invite you to keep teaching me as I walk with you day by day.”

Jeremiah 18:18-20
Psalm 31:5-6, 14-16
Matthew 20:17-28


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