Jesus is a hair’s breadth from Jerusalem, he’s just predicted his passion for the third time, and James and John come looking for jobs: to sit at his right and his left, that is, to become his secretary of state and secretary of war when he beats the Romans and becomes king.
Were they not listening?
Mark is just pouring on the irony at this point: when Jesus says they will drink from the cup from which he drinks, they’re all excited – “Oh boy! We’re close enough to the Boss that he lets us drink out of the same cup he uses!” Oh, they’ll get it soon enough, but not like they thought. We know who will be at his right and his left in Jerusalem, and it isn’t his chief ministers.
Why do the other disciples get mad at the two of them? Is it because they are frustrated that the boys haven’t been listening to Jesus or that they are thinking in too worldly or selfish a way? Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it’s because the other disciples are jealous that James and John beat them to the punch – the ten wish they had thought of it first.
So, just like the last time we talked, Jesus has to sit them all down and straighten them out: other people use authority to dominate others and to make sure that their life “works” the way they want it to, but you can’t do it that way. Jesus says this is how the Gentiles are, and the gospels from the daily liturgy this past week were all about "woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites," but we know this isn't a Gentile thing, and it isn't a Jewish thing, it's a human thing.
All of us are susceptible to the insidious capacity of power to push us to feather our own nests.
The cup above is from the CP.