Sermon #56                                                     Series: Matthew

            Title:                “Ye Know Not What Ye Ask”

            Text:                Matthew 20:17-23

            Reading:        Bob Poncer – Bobbie Estes

            Subject:          The Request of Zebedie’s Wife

            Date:               Tuesday Evening - September 12, 1995

            Tape #            R-73




            Rolfe Barnard used to say, “You better be careful what you pray for, because God just might answer your prayer.” So often we pray and ask God to do things for us, or give things to us, without considering what weighty things might be involved in God’s compliance with our requests.  Such was the case with the mother of Zebedie’s children. Our Savior said to her, “Ye Know Not What Ye Ask.”  My reason for doing so will became obvious as we go through this passage.


Proposition:  True prayer is not trying to change God’s will, but submitting to God’s will; not seeking what we want but seeking what God has purposed by the direction of his Spirit.


            There are five very important lessons to be learned from these verses. I will give them to you as we go along.  My God the Holy Spirit be our Teacher and graciously lay them each to our hearts.


I.  Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died at Calvary by his own choice and determination, by his own voluntary will – (vv. 17-20).


            This is the third time our Lord told his disciples how that he must suffer and died at Jerusalem. Though he told them frequently and plainly how he must be betrayed, delivered by the Jews into the hands of the Romans, and condemned to die as a common criminal, yet, Luke tells us, “They understood none of these things” (Luke 18:34). He told them plainly that…



These were not bare possibilities, but absolute certainties.  The death of Christ at Calvary was a matter of divine predestination. Indeed, Christ’s death at the cross was the focal point of God’s purposes from eternity and is the focal point of all God’s purposes from eternity and is the focal point of all God’s works in time.


·        John 12:31-32 “The Crisis of the World.”

·        Acts 2:23

·        I Peter 1:18-20


A.  Our Lord Jesus Christ died as a voluntary Victim of horrible, ignominious cruelty and of divine wrath, as our Substitute.


1.      He knew from the beginning all that he must suffer.

·        The Betrayal of Judas.

·        The Denial of Peter.

·        The Beatings and Humiliation.

·        The Imputation of Sin.

·        The Wrath of Sin.

·        The Wrath of God.

·        Death.


NOTE:  What a great aggravation to his soul the foreknowledge of his suffering was – Gethsemane.


2.      Yet, none of these things moved him from his gracious purpose.

·        Isaiah 50:5-6


“He saw Calvary in the distance all his life through, and yet walked calmly up to it, without turning to the right hand or to the left.” – J.C. Ryle.


A.      No sorrow can be compared with his sorrow – (Lam. 1:12).

B.      No love can be compared with his love – (John 13:34 15:13)


B.  Why did the Son of God voluntarily lay down his life for us at Calvary?


1.      He knew that it was his Father’s will (John 10:16-18); Heb. 10:5-10).

2.      He knew that without the shedding of blood is no remission of sins – Justice must be satisfied! (Heb. 9:22).

3.      He knew that he was the Lamb of God who must be sacrificed for the sins of his people (Rev. 13:8).

4.      He knew that without his death, his life, though perfect, holy, and gracious, would be useless to his people.

5.      He knew that the whole of God’s law, the whole book of the writings of God’s prophets, and the whole revelation of God’s glory could be fulfilled and revealed only by his death as the Sinner’s Substitute.


Blessed is that soul who knows these things, who knows the meaning and necessity of Christ’s sufferings and death!


II.  True believers sometimes behave in a very foolish, sinful manner. (vv. 20-22).


            James and John, the sons of Zebedee, persuaded their mother to ask the Lord Jesus to give them the places of highest honor and glory in his kingdom. Historians tell us that this woman was sister to Joseph, Mary’s husband.  She and her sons were true disciples, genuine believer’s, followers of Christ. But they behaved very foolishly.


NOTE:  Notice that the Bible never attempts to hide the sins, weaknesses, and foolishness of it’s most prominent characters – Proof of Inspiration.


A.  These disciples were truly spiritual people, but they behaved in a very carnal manner.


1.       They were more concerned about their crowns than about Christ’s cross! (Gal. 6:14).

2.       They were unbelievably presumptuous, when they should have been overwhelmed with wonder and humbled (v. 22).

3.       They were more concerned about themselves than about Christ or their brethren.

4.       Yet, these son’s of Zebudee were, in time, to become pillars of the church and kingdom of our Lord – (James and John).


B.  There are many true believers like this woman and her sons; indeed, in some areas at different times, we all are very much like them – “The flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.”


·        Weak.

·        Ignorant of Very Important Things.

·        Terribly Proud.

·        Horribly Self-Serving.


1.      Do not presume that the weak brother is no brother.

2.      True faith is often found beneath a pile of rubbish.


III.  The gentle reproof given to this woman and her sons is a warning to us all – “Ye know not what ye ask.”


            They had asked to share Christ’s glory, never stopping to consider that they must first shake his sorrow – (I Pet. 4:13).


            How much like this woman and her sons we are! We ask for God to save our sons and daughters – But are we willing for the Lord to teach us patience – But are we willing to endure trials? We ask for God to make us holy – But are we willing to be purified by affliction.  We ask for God to teach us to trust him – But are we willing to be cast upon him? We ask the Lord to make Christ precious to us – But are we willing to have every rival to Christ taken from us? We ask for God to use us – But are we willing to be used as he sees fit?


            These words apply to us all far more than we realize – “Ye know not what ye ask.” – “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God.” (Eccles. 5:2).


IV.  All that the Lord Jesus Christ did and suffered, all that he endured, and all that he accomplished was as the Representative of his people – (vv. 22-23).


            There is only one way that it can be truthfully said that these disciples drank the cup of wrath he drank and were baptized in the sea of woe into which he was baptized – Representatively!


            In Christ all God’s elect are saved perfectly by the representative work of Christ our Substitute!


V.  The Lord Jesus Christ became a Voluntary Servant to God the Father in order to accomplish our redemption, subjecting himself in all things to the Father’s will – (v. 23).


A.  He is God the Son, in all things equal with the Father – (I John 5:7).


B.  He became our Surety and Mediator, Jehovah’s Servant, to save us by his obedience to the Father.


·        Isaiah 42:1

·        John 10:16-18

·        Philippians 2:1-11

·        Hebrews 10:5-14




            As he served the will of God for us, let us now serve the will of God for him.