But Jesus answered and said, You know not what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of…
Ye know not what ye ask. That is, you have not thought seriously about it; have not looked it welt round, so as to be quite sure what your petition means and involves. One is a little surprised to find James and John acting so impulsively. It is the sort of thing that better suits Peter. "Boanerges" is a strange name for John; perhaps it was specially adapted to James, the elder brother. This James seems to have been somewhat of a zealot, and he paid the penalty by becoming the first apostolic martyr.
I. AN INCONSIDERATE PRAYER. Evidently these men had no higher idea of Christ's mission than that he had come to found a temporal kingdom. They asked an impossible thing, simply because they did not know how impossible it was. If they had spiritually entered into the teachings of Jesus, they never could have asked it. Their prayer lacked "humility" because it lacked "thought." Prayer is a serious thing. It is the approach of the erring creature to the All-holy, if All-merciful, One; it can never be undertaken lightly. "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet; the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." We should "take with us words," carefully chosen, when we "turn unto the Lord." Prayer may lose tone by its frequency, and become unduly familiar. So often we go to God with nothing special to say. We go because it is time to go; the hour of prayer has struck. Distinguish between
(1) acts of adoration;
(2) acts of communion;
(3) acts of petition;
(4) acts of intercession.
Our daily spiritual converse with God is only in a conventional sense called "prayer;" for there need not be any element of petition in it. How many of our prayers would have been offered, if we had seriously thought about them beforehand? Thought takes in what may be right for us to ask, and what we may suppose God can give.
II. DIVINE TREATMENT OF INCONSIDERATE PRAYER. Jesus answered kindly, but firmly. James and John were wrong, and must be shown that they were wrong. Our Lord endeavoured to quicken thought, and so help James and John to correct their own mistake. And their great mistake was that they had misapprehended his royalty. He was to be King of the obedient, who would be willing to suffer for their obedience. If they had known what they asked, they, would have seen that they asked a special share with Christ in his sufferings. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.
WEB: 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."