A Godly Mother’s Greatest Goal

Dr. Tommy Boland, Cross Community Church Pastor

This is the month when we honor motherhood, so I thought it would be a good idea to use a passage from sacred Scripture to set forth a godly mother’s greatest goal.

“The mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. ‘What is it you want?’ he asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom’” (Matthew 20:20-21).

“Zebedee’s sons” were James and John, who, along with Peter, made up the inner circle of the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. John is frequently referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” There has been a great deal of scholarly debate concerning the true intent behind this seemingly audacious request made by the mother of James and John. Did she think her sons were superior to the other disciples? Was she simply trying to push her sons to the front of the blessing line? We can’t be sure exactly what was in her mind, but of one thing we can be certain: Wanting her sons to be close to Jesus is the greatest goal of any godly mother.

First, notice this mother’s reverence for our Lord Jesus. We read that she approached Jesus from a posture of kneeling. She was living out the truth of the psalmist, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). Whatever the reason was behind her request, there can be no doubt that she knew to whom she was speaking. Both her posture and her request make that very clear.


A mother’s request

Now let’s take a closer look at her request. She wanted her sons to be as close to Jesus as possible. Now, it comes as no surprise to read that “When the ten [other disciples] heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers” (Matthew 20:24). To sit directly next to the King of kings would be the highest possible honor. The disciples surely thought that James and John wanted to exalt themselves above all others. But before we condemn this mother for her request, let us pause to commend her for what she desired was a very good thing indeed. John would later write, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Clearly, John’s mother deeply desired “no greater joy” for her sons than that they should be walking with THE Truth, Jesus Christ, the Son of God – 

  • In the Kingdom of Christ

  • Next to King Jesus

 Now, don’t miss this: The mother of James and John clearly believed that Jesus would one day set up His Kingdom. Whatever this mother knew and did not know, she believed that Jesus was who He said He was and was going to do what He said He would do — establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven — and she wanted her sons as close to Jesus as possible. Is this not the greatest goal for any godly mother?

Jesus’ response

motherIt is important to point out that Jesus did not rebuke her for her request.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to [James and John]. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered. 

Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:22-23).

Jesus did not turn her down, and He did not put her down. He simply raised the bar and made it clear that there is a cost to being next to Him in His Kingdom. If I were to sum up this story theologically, I might say that the only way you can get to Easter morning is through Good Friday. There will be no crown without a cross for the disciples of Jesus. Yet, in spite of the hatred of this world that will be directed against Christians (John 15:18-19), there is no greater joy for a godly mother than to see her children walking with Jesus. 


Types of mother

From Eve to Sarah to Tamar to Ruth to Bathsheba to Mary to the mother of James and John, mothers have played an incredible role in the story of redemption. There are a few ways to become a mom. First, you can be one biologically, having birthed your own children. Second, you may have adopted a child to raise as your own. Or it’s possible that you have given your blessing to an adopted spiritual child in the faith. But regardless of whether or not you have your own children, every woman is called to be a biblical mom, using your gifts, talents and abilities to help raise children in the faith. And throughout that process of training up children in the way they should go, a mother’s greatest desire should always be that your children would be as close to Jesus as possible. 

Take note of these words from the psalmist:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! 

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1-2).

Every one of us should feel that longing, that hunger to be in the presence of our Lord. And all of us who are parents should deeply desire that for our children. And I’m sure every godly mother is praying something very similar to the prayer of the mother of Zebedee’s sons: “Lord, please grant that my child/children will see You as lovely and yearn to be in Your presence.”

Happy Mother’s Month!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN! 


Dr. Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach (www.thecrosscc.org). He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.

For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.

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