Mark 10:35–40 (// Matt. 20:20–23)

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” NKJV, ©1982

In Mark 10:35–40, what does it mean to sit at the right or left hand of God?


4 Answers 4


Throughout the Bible, the "right hand" is presented as the "strong arm" of God. Of course, God has no body and he has no arms. This is merely a symbolic way of speaking of the power, authority, might, and dignity of God. Therefore, the throne at God's "right hand" is the chair of authority, might, and dignity. This is the position occupied by God's Son, God's Messiah, God's King, the King of Kings -- Jesus Christ.


In a previous post asking if the virgins were advised to remain awake, I gave the following answer stating that the advice was to have more oil, more faith, because "today if you hear God's voice, do not be like Israel" who wasted the opportunity to firmly plant His words in their heart so that it would edify, build up faith, to receive reward for obedience:


The teaching deals with the progress of salvation.

Messiah will usher in an age of the Kingdom. Those who have done well will share in his treasure and happiness. The criteria will be to overcome, obey the call. In order to overcome, we need faith, oil for our lamps. Oil is found by buying without money.

See if you can identify these elements in the following situation.

James sons of Zebedee and his brother John have believed that Jesus will save humanity from its futile living. In the age to come they could share not only in Messiah's happiness, but share in it richly, maybe sitting at His left or right. In order to do that, they must resurrect not only well, but resurrect extremely well, with the ex anastasis, resurrect with the out-resurrection. To do that they need to face and pass the extreme test, drink the cup Jesus drinks, be baptised with the baptism Jesus is baptised. They have already been baptised with water for repentance,and with the Holy Spirit for receiving gifts, bread from heaven, which led to faith, courage to pick up the cross daily, and ability to gather God's sheep, when people saw that God protected those who left selfish living, and turned to Him. To those who were given much, like those who obeyed and saw God's great works, even more was given. To those who were given little because of their attitude, even what they had was taken away from them.

The virgins who brought extra oil are these who had more given to them.

Similarly, we are taught to ask for more bread, signs, so that our faith grows, until we can even pass the extreme test and receive the ex-anastasis.

Bread, signs, are given to increase faith.

All the virgins received signs. Signs can increase faith like in Caleb, but those, who only think about themselves, have no love for those who have not seen God who are cowards like the rest of Israel, will find that their initial Fath will be taken way from them. It seems that some were also able to procure extra faith to last them for the wait.

There are three ways in which it can progress.

Believer received signs that has not increased his faith and therefore whatever he had was taken way from him.

Believer received signs that increased his faith and also had reserve for the journey.

Believer received signs that increased his faith and also had more given to him as reserve for the journey. *

Paul also wanted a better reward, a better resurrection :

Philippians 3:118More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Every baptism results in a different phase of salvation, rescue, reward, fulfillment. Not all will have the opportunity to drink the last cup, the cup that Christ drank. That cup will result in a special resurrection, but the resurrection of sitting at Christ's side is reserved for God to give, by a yet to be known criteria.


There's no denying that his disciples did not immediately understand the sayings of Jesus. Jesus often uses phrases that were later understood by His followers. Take for instance, a few verses from John 12.

vs 23 23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

This verse is but one of many times when Jesus referred to his impending crucifixion as a glorification. An often neglected aspect of the ministry of Jesus is that His exaltation came at the time of his greatest persecution, the Cross. In other words, the crowning of Jesus as the King of Israel occurred when he was mocked and a crown of thorns was thrust on His Head. His earthly throne was one made from a tree, with this inscription above His Head: KING OF THE JEWS (Jn 19:19).

In verses, 32,33 Jesus specifies how His glorification would come.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 (Now he said this to indicate clearly what kind of death he was going to die.)

The disciple's immediate understanding of "lifted Up" may have been lacking. Matthew inserts his post-resurrection note in verse 33, specifying that lifting up of Jesus upon the cross was the exaltation mentioned.

Mark 10 35-40

When James and John were requesting positions of honor in Jesus's glory, Jesus tells them their lack of understanding of what that meant would be short-lived. It is believed that both James and John were martyred, James being martyred before he left Jerusalem (Act 12 1,2). It's striking that Jesus tells them that the Father prepared the two who would be on His right and left. Luke 23 tells the reader who the two would be:

32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.


What does it mean to sit at the right or left hand of God?

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying... They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on your right hand and the other on your left, in your glory.”

.... 40 but to sit on my right hand and on My left is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”

There are a few important points to note in this passage.

  • to sit by the side of a throne it must be granted by the one ON the throne. Just as Jesus was exalted by God to sit by His side. Eph 1:20, Acts 2:33, 5:31
  • Jesus said it was not his to give to sit by his side, but this matter was already planned.

It doesn't require any effort to grasp that if either sat beside Jesus, this does not make them Jesus. They are next to Jesus. Just as Jesus is next to God and only God - he is never said to be next to the Father.

Being next to God is not mentioned in this Matthew/Mark passage - it is referring to Jesus only. Jesus has clearly explained that he has a God - just as all men do, and he was taken to be with his God after God raised him from the grave. Mark 16:19

Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.’” John 20:17

God has raised this Jesus to life, to which we are all witnesses. 33Exalted, then, to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised holy spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says: Acts 2:32

‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand 35until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ’36Therefore let all Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!” v36 - Quoting Ps 110

Jesus is fulfilling Psalm 110 which David prophesied centuries earlier.

Jesus was given all authority once he was raised from death.

Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Matt 28:19

Who gave Jesus this authority? God did. Did Jesus always have this? No.

God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ! Acts 2:36

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus. Acts 3:13

Jesus then, receives glory, exaltation, authority, Lordship, immortal life - all from God. How could we imagine any of this makes Jesus somehow equal with God, or even AS God??

Therefore let all Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

If God hadn't done this it would not be - Jesus cannot take this on his own.

Are the sons of Zebedee remotely equal with Jesus if they sat beside him? Hardly. How then can Jesus be equal with God if he sits beside God's throne?

Sitting on the right or the left is an exalted position with certain benefits and power - which are given to them. But they are never exalted beyond that place of being a servant to Him on the throne.

Jesus' place next to God was also prepared for him well in advance. Since the foundation of the world Jesus was always going to arrive at the appointed time and this is expressed in various prophecies including the famous one Ps 110, Zechariah 9:9, Ps 22, Jer 23:5, Is 53 and many more.

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