Matthew 20:23
And he said to them, You shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not my to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Is not mine to give.—The words in italics are, of course, not in the Greek, and they spoil the true construction of the sentence. Our Lord does not say that it does not belong to Him to give what the disciples asked, but that He could only give it according to His Father’s will and the laws which He had fixed. Considered as a prediction, there was a singular contrast in the forms of its fulfilment in the future of the two brothers. James was the first of the whole company of the Twelve to pass through the baptism of blood (Acts 12:2). For John was reserved the weariness and loneliness of an old age surviving all the friendships and companionships of youth and manhood, the exile in Patmos, and the struggle with the great storm of persecution which raged throughout the empire under Nero and Domitian.

To them for whom it is prepared of my Father.—He does not say who these are; but the reappearance of the same words in Matthew 25:34, throws some light on its meaning here. The kingdom is reserved for those who do Christ-like deeds of love; the highest places in the kingdom must be reserved for those whose love is like His own, alike in its intensity and its width.

20:20-28 The sons of Zebedee abused what Christ said to comfort the disciples. Some cannot have comforts but they turn them to a wrong purpose. Pride is a sin that most easily besets us; it is sinful ambition to outdo others in pomp and grandeur. To put down the vanity and ambition of their request, Christ leads them to the thoughts of their sufferings. It is a bitter cup that is to be drunk of; a cup of trembling, but not the cup of the wicked. It is but a cup, it is but a draught, bitter perhaps, but soon emptied; it is a cup in the hand of a Father, Joh 18:11. Baptism is an ordinance by which we are joined to the Lord in covenant and communion; and so is suffering for Christ, Eze 20:37; Isa 48:10. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; and so is suffering for Christ, for unto us it is given, Php 1:29. But they knew not what Christ's cup was, nor what his baptism. Those are commonly most confident, who are least acquainted with the cross. Nothing makes more mischief among brethren, than desire of greatness. And we never find Christ's disciples quarrelling, but something of this was at the bottom of it. That man who labours most diligently, and suffers most patiently, seeking to do good to his brethren, and to promote the salvation of souls, most resembles Christ, and will be most honoured by him to all eternity. Our Lord speaks of his death in the terms applied to the sacrifices of old. It is a sacrifice for the sins of men, and is that true and substantial sacrifice, which those of the law faintly and imperfectly represented. It was a ransom for many, enough for all, working upon many; and, if for many, then the poor trembling soul may say, Why not for me?Ye shall indeed drink of my cup ... - You will follow me, and you will partake of my afflictions, and will suffer as Ishall.

This was fulfilled. James was slain with the sword by Herod, Acts 12:2. John 54ed many years; but he attended the Saviour through his sufferings, and was himself banished to Patmos, a solitary island, for the testimony of Jesus Christ - a companion of others in tribulation, Revelation 1:9.

Is not mine to give ... - The translation of this place evidently does not express the sense of the original. The translation expresses the idea that Jesus has nothing to do in bestowing rewards on his followers. This is at variance with the uniform testimony of the Scriptures, Matthew 25:31-40; John 5:22-30. The correct translation of the passage would be, "To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, except to those for whom it is prepared by my Father." The passage thus declares that Christ would give rewards to his followers, but only to such as should be entitled to them according to the purpose of his Father. Much as he might be attached to these two disciples, yet he could not bestow any such signal favors on them out of the regular course of things. Rewards were prepared for his followers, and in due time they should be bestowed. He would bestow them according as they had been provided from eternity by God the Father, Matthew 25:34. The correct sense is seen by leaving out that part of the verse in italics, and this is one of the places in the Bible where the sense has been obscured by the introduction of words which have nothing to correspond with them in the original. See a similar instance in 1 John 2:23.

Mt 20:17-28. Third Explicit Announcement of His Approaching Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection—The Ambitious Request of James and John, and the Reply. ( = Mr 10:32-45; Lu 18:31-34).

For the exposition, see on [1331]Mr 10:32-45.

Mark hath the same, Mark 10:39,40. Our Saviour here tells them, that as he was first to suffer and then enter into his glory, so they that should be glorified with him should also first suffer with him; for none shall be crowned but those who strive lawfully, 2 Timothy 2:5; and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, 2 Timothy 3:12. But who should be highest in the kingdom of glory his Father must determine, upon whose will the disposal of his kingdom, and the preferences in it, depended. This text hath been abused by those who have denied Christ’s Deity, and equality to the Father, as if it served their purpose, because Christ here denieth it in his power to dispose of the kingdom of heaven; but besides that, he elsewhere asserts the contrary, John 10:28 17:2. Christ doth not here speak of what was in his power, but what was his office as Mediator; so his work was to encourage them to fight the good fight, not to dispense out crowns to them. Or else he speaketh of himself as man, as he speaketh, John 14:28. Nor indeed doth Christ here deny that it was in his power, but only that it was in his power to give this preference to any except those for whom his Father had prepared it. Note, the Greek is, ouk estin emon dounai all’ oiv htoimastai, that is, is not mine to give, but to them for whom it is prepared; so that those words, it shall be given to them, which our translators put in, were better left out. All this was before ordered and determined by God, and he could only dispose of the kingdom of God according to the eternal counsel. ’ Alla (which we translate but) hath here the force of ie mh, (unless, ) as in Mark 9:8 2 Corinthians 2:5. Besides that, to show the order of the Trinity in working, acts of power and providence are usually ascribed to the Father, though by other scriptures it appears that the Son in them cooperates with the Father. And he saith unto them, ye shall drink indeed of my cup,.... Not of the selfsame, but of what was like unto it; meaning, that they should endure much persecution for his name's sake, as all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must expect in one shape or another. Thus James, who was one of these persons, was slain with the sword by Herod; John, the other, was imprisoned, and beaten by the order of the Jewish sanhedrim, was banished into the isle of Patmos by Domitian; and, some say, was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, though saved in it: so that these words seem to be a prophecy of what they should suffer for Christ, instead of enjoying places of worldly honour and profit under him, they were seeking for.

And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: this clause is here, and in the former verse, omitted by the Vulgate Latin, and Ethiopic versions, and in some Greek copies, and is thought to be transcribed hither out of Mark's Gospel; but the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions have it, and so has Munster's Hebrew Gospel, and it appears in many Greek copies. James, being bathed in his own blood, when killed with the sword, and John being cast into a vessel of scalding oil, these are fitly expressed by a baptism.

But to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine, to give; in the sense in which they asked it, since he was no temporal prince; nor was his kingdom of this world; nor had he any such external favours, or worldly honours: and as to the true and spiritual sense of such a phrase, it was not a point to be fixed now by him, as man, and according to his own will; as who should reign with him in the kingdom of heaven, who should sit down on the same throne with him, and enjoy all the glories and happiness of the world to come; and though, as mediator, all this glory was given to him, and he had it in his hands to give to others, yet to none

but those

for whom, says he,

it is prepared of my Father: for this is the true reading and sense of the last clause; signifying, that eternal life, or the heavenly glory, is a kingdom prepared by his Father, from the foundation of the world, and not for anybody, and every person, but for some only, according to his Father's sovereign will and pleasure; and that this is an affair that was fixed by him, in his eternal counsels and purposes, and in the covenant of his grace, and not to be adjusted now; nor was the designation of it to be, nor will the distribution of it be according to the merits of men, but the free grace of God; and though he, as mediator, was appointed to bestow both grace and glory on men, yet only on those the Father had given to him, for whom grace was laid up in him, and glory prepared.

And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is {f} not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

(f) The almightiness of Christ's divinity is not shut out by this, but it shows the debasing of himself by taking man's nature upon him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 20:23. The disciples reply: δυνάμεθα, not because they did not quite understand what Jesus meant (Matthew 20:18 f.), but because they were animated by a sincere though self-confident determination, such, too, as was afterwards sufficiently verified in the case of both, only in somewhat different ways.

οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὸν δοῦναι, ἀλλʼ οἷς ἡτοίμ. ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρ. μ.] sc. δοθήσεται: is not my business (does not behove me) to give, but it will be given to those for whom it has been prepared (has been put in readiness, Matthew 25:34; 1 Corinthians 2:9) by my Father. For ἐμὸν ἐστί with infinitive, comp. Plat. Legg. ii. p. 664 B: ἐμὸν ἂν εἴη λέγειν. Jesus thus discourages the questionable request by frankly declaring that the granting of what has just been asked is one of those things which God has reserved to Himself; that it is a matter with which He, the Son, must not interfere. For another instance of such reservation on the part of the Father, see Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32. This evident meaning of the words is not to be explained away or modified. The former has been done by Chrysostom and his successors, also by Castalio, Grotius, Kuinoel, who took ἀλλά as equivalent to εἰ μή; the latter by Augustine, Luther, according to whom the words as man (“secundum formam servi”) are to be understood, and Bengel, who modifies οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὸν δοῦναι by erroneously supplying the words: till after my death. Further, the words τὸ μὲν ποτήρ. μ. πίεσθε are to be regarded as expressing the Lord’s unfeigned trust and confidence in the δυνάμεθα of the disciples; He feels confident that they will verify it by their actions. His words, therefore, are only indirectly tantamount to a prediction, and that not exactly of death by martyrdom, which was certainly the fate of James, Acts 12, though not of John,[5] but of suffering generally in the interests of the Messiah’s kingdom (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5). It is probable, however, that the apocryphal story about John swallowing a cup full of poison (see Fabricius, ad Cod. Apocr. I. p. 576; Tischendorf, Act. ap. apocr. p. 269), and that without being anything the worse (Mark 16:18), as well as the legend about the attempt to scald him to death in boiling oil (Tertullian, de praescr. 36), owe their existence and propagation to the present passage. Origen views our Lord’s words on this occasion in connection with the banishment of John to Patmos.

[5] The statement of Gregorius Hamartolos (quoted by Nolte in the Tüb. theol. Quartalschr. 1862, p. 466), to the effect that, in his λόγια, Papias declares that John was put to death by the Jews, cannot outweigh the testimony of the early church to the fact that he died a natural death. For the discussion of this point, see Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschr. 1865, p. 78 ff.; Overbeck, ibid. 1867, p. 68 ff.; Holtzmann in Schenkel’s Lex. III. p. 333; Keim, III. p. 44 f.; Steitz in the Stud. u. Krit. 1868, p. 487 ff.Matthew 20:23. τὸ μὲν π. μ. πίεσθε, as for my cup, ye shall drink of it: predictive of the future fact, and also conferring a privilege = I have no objection to grant you companionship in my sufferings; that favour may be granted without risk of abuse.—τὸ δὲ καθίσαι, etc., but as for sitting on right and left, hand that is another affair.—οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὸν δοῦναι = is not a matter of mere personal favour: favouritism has no place here; it depends on fitness. That is the meaning of the last clause, οἷς ἡτοίμασται ὑ. τ. π. μ. = it is not an affair of arbitrary favour on the part of the Father any more than on my part. Thrones are for those who are fit to sit on them, and prepared by moral trial and discipline to bear the honour worthily: τοῖς ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων δυναμένοις γενέσθαι λομπροῖς—Chrys., Hom. lxv. The same Father illustrates supposing an ἀγωνοθέτης to be asked by two athletes as assign to them the crowns of victory, and replying: “it is not mine to give, but they belong to those for whom they are prepared by struggle and sweat” (ἀπὸ τῶν πόνων καὶ τῶν ἱδρώτων).23. Ye shall drink indeed of my cup] James was slain by the sword of Herod Agrippa I. (Acts 12:2). John suffered many persecutions, but died a natural death. The rebuke of Jesus is very gentle; His soul knew what suffering was in store for the two brothers.

it shall be given] These words are not in the Greek text, but may be understood from the infinitive “to give” in the first clause. By another interpretation “but” = “except,” and the sentence would run, “it is not mine to give except to those,” &c., but it is more than doubtful whether the Greek word can have this meaning.Matthew 20:23. Τὸ μὲν ποτήριόν, κ.τ.λ., the cup indeed, etc.) This, together with the parallel passages, has been treated with singular industry by Thomas Gataker in his Adversaria Miscellanea, B. i. ch. 3, of which we shall take the chief points.—καθίσαι, κ.τ.λ., to sit, etc.) There will, therefore, clearly be some who will sit on the right and left hand of Christ.—ἀλλʼ οἷς, κ.τ.λ., except to those for whom) By this opposition or exception (for it comes to the same thing) Jesus does not deny that it is His to give (see Revelation 3:21), but limits and declares to whom He will give it, as well as the time and the order, referring, as is His wont, all things to the Father. Jesus did not give it until, His passion having been suffered and concluded,[894] He had sat down Himself on the right hand of the Father. It is neither an earthly kingdom in which He gives it, nor does He give it to those who have not yet suffered. Under, therefore, the very appearance of a repulse, He gives a promise to James and John.

[894] ‘Exantlatâ,’ ‘having been drained to the dregs.’—(I. B.)Verse 23. - Ye shall indeed drink, etc. Jesus accepts their venture of faith, and prophesies its fulfilment. St. James first shared in Christ's baptism of blood, being murdered by Herod (Acts 12:2). He was a martyr in will and deed. St. John did not, indeed, undergo a violent death, but he stood by the cross and felt his Master's sufferings; he lived a long life of persecution, banishment, and distress; he saw all his companions drop off one by one, till in extreme old age he was left solitary, with nothing to comfort him but the memory of vanished years, and the hope of an eternal future. Truly he was a martyr in will, if not in deed. The story that he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil by Nero's command, and that, coming forth unhurt, he was afterwards banished to Patmos, is one which, except as regards the banishment, has not. been accepted by modern criticism. The event is mentioned by Tertullian ('De Praescript.,' 36.), Jerome ('Adv. Jovin.,' 1:26; and 'Comm. in Matthew' 20:27), and is commemorated in the Church Calendar on May 6, under the title of "S. Joh. ante Port. Lat.;" but it appears to have been a legend that first appeared in Tertullian's work, and was copied from him by other writers without examination. Is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom (ἀλλ οϊς) it is prepared. The Authorized Version inserts δοθήσεται; the Revised," But it is for them for whom it hath been prepared." The Vulgate has, Non est meum dare vobis, sed quibus paratum est a Patre meo. Probably ἀλλὰ here is equivalent to εἰ μὴ, as in Matthew 17:8 and Mark 9:8, and means "except," "unless." The Lord does not mean that he was not able to give it, if so he thought fit, or that the boon was solely at his Father's bestowal, not his (which he might have said, speaking in his human nature). What he affirms is this: The prize is awarded, not by favour or on any earthly considerations, but by absolute justice, and only to those who prove themselves worthy to receive it. Christ assigns to the Father the revelation of mysteries and the election to eternal life (see Matthew 11:26; Matthew 16:17). It is prepared; it hath been prepared (Matthew 25:34), according to certain impartial laws ordained by God, who is no respecter of persons. "The throne," says St. Bernard, "is the price of toils, not a grace granted to ambition; a reward of righteousness, not the concession of a request."
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