Why did Jesus say James and John could not have their request? What does this indicate about Jesus’ submission to the Father, and whose will must ultimately be done in God’s kingdom? Cf. Joh 8:29, 1Co 15:24. Who does Jesus say will sit at His right and left in His kingdom? What does the fact that such positions of authority have already been prepared teach us about God’s eternal plan, and the Father’s sovereignty in salvation and the kingdom of heaven? Cf. Mat 25:34, 1Co 2:9, Heb 11:16. In light of what we know about James and John being among Jesus’ closest disciples and possibly His cousins, they would be a good guess from a human perspective to sit at the right and left of Jesus in His kingdom—which is why they made their request; although we don’t know for sure, who might be a better guess from a heavenly perspective and what we know from Scripture? See Mat 5:17, Luk 9:28-31, 16:16-17, Rom 3:21.
Considering human nature, James and John likely tried to keep their request quiet and secret from the other disciples; did it stay that way? How is that like us in our own selfish ambitions? Why is it inevitable that such things must eventually come to light? See Isa 47:3, Lam 4:22, Eze 16:37; cf. Rom 2:16, 1Co 4:5 and think: Even before the final judgment when all the secrets of men are clearly revealed, is it possible even now for anything that is contrary to the nature and character of God to not eventually draw attention to itself because it clashes with the created order that reflects God’s nature and character? Cf. Rom 1:18, Gal 6:7, 1Jo 5:3. What was the “clash” in this instance? I.e., what was the response of the rest of the apostles? See Mat 20:24. What does their reaction indicate about their own ambitions? On what occasion had they only recently argued with one another over a similar matter? See Mark 9:33-36, Mat 18:1-4. On what occasion will they again argue over the same thing? See Luk 22:24-27. Considering that these were Jesus’ closest disciples who had personally been with Him for a significant amount of time, what does this teach us about the inherent selfishness of fallen man, and how contrary it is to the nature of God and His kingdom?
What was Jesus’ response to the friction that James’ and John’s request caused with the other disciples? See Mat 20:25-28. What example from the kingdoms and rulers of this world did the apostles have for how they envisioned the kingdom would be that Jesus would establish as the Messiah? See Mat 20:25; cf. Dan 2:36-44, 5:19, 8:19-22, Joh 11:48. To whom has God given authority and made ruler over these kingdoms, and why in light of this should we not be surprised that Christ’s kingdom would be very different? See Luk 4:5-6, Joh 12:31, Eph 2:1-3, Col 1:13, 1Jo 5:19; cf. again Dan 2:37-38 as well as Isa 14:3-4,12-14. How does the rule of those who reign among the kingdoms of this world which Jesus describes in Mat 20:25 reflect the very nature of sin? Cf. Psa 19:13, Psa 119:133, Rom 6:12,14, 7:23-24. With what few words at the beginning of Mat 20:26 does Jesus indicate that the rulers of His kingdom are not like those of the kingdoms of this world?
What contrast does Jesus make in Mat 20:26-27 between those who would belong to His kingdom and those who are of the kingdoms of this world? In contrast to the reign of the rulers of this world that reflects the nature of sin, how does the rule of those in God’s kingdom reflect the nature of righteousness? Cf. 1Sa 2:8, Psa 72:12-13, Pro 31:20, Isa 58:6-12. Did Jesus say that it is wrong to want to be great or first in His kingdom? Since it isn’t wrong to want to be great in God’s kingdom, what is wrong with most people’s desire to be so? Think: What does it mean to be great or first in God’s kingdom, and how is that different from what man’s fallen nature supposes that it means from the example of the rulers of the kingdoms of this world?