Worshipping and Demanding

This semester one of my classes is Greek two. I freely admit that I find it super hard. We use The Basics of Biblical Greek as our primary textbook in this class, and Mounce uses verses from the New Testament, Septuagint and the church fathers as translation exercises. I admit that occasionally I find myself pondering the Greek of a verse and finding greater meaning in it than I did in the English translation that is so familiar to me.

One instance of this is Matthew 20:20.  In the English Standard Version, the verse says,

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something

I’ve read this many times and always brushed over it, looking for the greater significance of the passage. Having it as one of my translation exercises, however, brought a new meaning out for me. First, here’s the Greek:

τοτε προσηλθεν αυτω η μητηρ των υιων Ζεβεδαιου μετα των υιων αυτης προσκυνουσα και αιτουσα τι απ’ αυτου.

When I was looking at this verse, there were two words, both participles that really stood out to me. These words are προσκυνουσα and αιτουσα.

προσκυνουσα is the word that the ESV translates as “kneeling.” I learned it in my Greek class as “worshipping,” meaning that the mother came to Jesus worshipping him.

αιτουσα is the word that the ESV translates “asked.” While I learned this as asked in the Greek, I learned that this question had the implication of a demand. In my translation that I turned into my professor, before I had checked the ESV, I wrote this:

Then, the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons worshipping and demanding something from him.

In the Greek, I found myself confronting with a pretty serious heart check. Even though I often come to Christ in an attitude of worship, I soon drop the worshipful attitude for one of demand. I want to see Jesus solve my problems and I want that solution to be right now and in my way. I come to him demanding my own way. The “worship” is just the prelude for the demand.

Instead I want to be the person who worships for who Jesus is and does not come to him with a demand for my wants, even if it’s a demand that would benefit another person, such as my children. I do not want to have the idol of my comfort, my mission and my purpose in my life.

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