Sermon Detail

Happiness Revealed The Sons of Thunder Are Transformed by the Gospel of Grace

June 11, 2023 | Buster Brown

“And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, 'See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.'”

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.' And he said to them, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And they said to him, 'Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.' Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?' And they said to him, 'We are able.' And Jesus said to them, 'The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.' And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'”  Mark 10:32-45

As Jesus approaches Jerusalem and the cross he once again underscores the agony he is facing. In the aftermath of this statement (v 32-35) James and John, the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17) discount what he has said and speak of the coming kingdom and their request for a place of prominence in it.

The sons of thunder who at times had misguided zeal, were transformed into laser-focused disciples who loved the gospel of grace. What happened?

James became a martyr in the early church (Acts 12:2) and John continued his ministry for decades, even into exile. John wrote five of our New Testament books (John, Revelation, I, II, and III John).

The transformation of John:

1. He was overwhelmed with the wonder and beauty of the grace of the cross (John 1:14, I John 1:4-5).
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  John 1:12

2. He loved the truth (III John 4, I John 2:22, II John 7, III John 10).

3. His heart was gladdened as he spoke the truth regarding Jesus (I John 1:4-5).

4. He grew into a bold and discerning disciple as evidenced by his ministry with Peter.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus."  Acts 4:13
“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,"  Acts 8:14-15

5. He patiently endured with great hope and expectation (Revelation 1:9).
John learned to look beyond his earthly sufferings to the heavenly glory that awaits all who patiently endure in the name of Jesus.

“To be sure, I have had more proofs of an evil nature and deceitful heart, than I could possibly expect or conceive of twenty years ago; though I then thought I found as much of it as I could bear. I believe likewise my understanding is more enlightened into the three great mysteries, of the person, love, and life of Jesus. Yet I seem to groan under darkness, coldness, and confusion, as much as ever. And I believe I must go out of the world with the same language upon my lips which I used when I first ventured to a throne of grace,-- Have mercy upon me, O Lord, a poor and worthless sinner. My feelings are faint; my services feeble and defiled; my defects, mistakes, and omissions innumerable; my imaginations are wild as the clouds in a storm: yea, too often foul as a common sewer. What can I set against this mournful confession? Only this, – That Christ hath died and is risen again; I believe he is able to save to the uttermost, and he hath said, ‘Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Upon his person, worth, and promise rest all my hope; but this is a foundation able to bear the greatest weight.”  John Newton, The Works of John Newton, Vol 6, pg. 286


1. What worldview shift did John experience as he stood at the foot of the cross (John 19:25–27)?

2. Why is it significant that John’s gospel is the only gospel that recorded Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:5-11)?

3. What is “laser-focused love”? Why is that important in the contemporary context?