Careful What You Ask for

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” – Matthew 27:24-25

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.” – Luke 23:27-28

The day of Jesus’ crucifixion, the day Christians call “Good Friday,” is full of examples of the wisdom of the words, “Careful what you wish for.”

According to the apostle John, after Jesus had been handed over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, Pilate was reluctant to condemn Him. In an attempt to free Jesus, he appeared before the Jewish crowd and offered to release a prisoner, according to what had become a custom at Passover. To his bewilderment, instead of choosing the Man who had been feeding the hungry, healing the sick, delivering the demon-possessed, and raising the dead, the people chose Barabbas, who had taken part in an insurrection and murder. My fellow blogger Keith Peterson wrote an excellent piece recently about the implications of this choice. (If the shoe fits, kick yourself with it. And repent.)

John wrote that the Roman governor was afraid, especially after hearing that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God, (John 19:7,8). But apparently, Pilate was more afraid of the people. In the end, Barabbas was released, and Jesus was handed over to be crucified.

Attempting to distance himself from the outcome of their decision, Matthew’s gospel tells us Pilate took water and symbolically washed his hands, saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Matthew 24:24)

At the mention of “this man’s blood,” according to Matthew’s gospel account, the crowd then made an unbelievably reckless declaration: All the people answered, Let his blood be on us and our children!'” (Matthew 24:25) It is doubtful that these people had any inkling of how the fulfillment of that declaration would unfold over centuries to come, but Jesus did. As He made His way to the cross, He spoke to the women who were weeping for Him: “‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and your children.'” (Luke 23:28)

But there was another person present at the cross who likely had second thoughts about what she had wished for earlier.

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them … the mother of Zebedee’s sons. (Matthew 27: 55, 56)

I can’t help thinking that as she watched Jesus die, she was remembering a certain request she had made of Him a short time earlier.

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. (Matthew 20:20-22a)

No, they did not. And as the mother saw Jesus in His agony – with two other men on crosses of their own, she must have felt shame and a chilling sense of relief that her sons were not on His right and on His left.

Jesus had asked them, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” and James and John had replied, “We can.” (Matthew 20:22b) Again, they had no idea what they were agreeing to. Jesus foretold then that they would, in fact, drink of that cup, and the brothers were later to be martyred for their faith. Mercifully, their mother did not yet understand that statement as she watched the Lord’s crucifixion from a distance.

How many times in our prayers have we asked the LORD for things without thinking through the consequences of their fulfillment?

How many times have you been given what you asked for (maybe after “helping God a little”) and ended up being disappointed at best, and at worst kicking yourself and wondering, What was I thinking?!

How many times have you seen what the LORD gave you instead of what you asked for and thanked Him that He knew so much more than you did what would truly bless you?

Years ago, I had one of those epiphanies, when my husband Marty and I attended an open house. As many people were reconnecting and visiting (not socially distanced), I noticed Marty was standing next to a man I knew but hadn’t seen in years. They weren’t talking to each other, but as they chatted with others, I had a moment to stand at a distance and get a new perspective.

The man I hadn’t seen in “forever” was someone I had gone out with in high school. I don’t remember why I was so crazy about him, except that he was “cute.” After a few months, he had dumped me, probably because he saw before I did that we didn’t have anything in common – except our cuteness πŸ˜‰ . I had been crushed and depressed for weeks. If I had been much of a believer in those days, I might have asked the Lord to pleeeeeeze bring this guy back! (I know, what was I thinking, right?)

Now I could see in front of me my plans versus God’s plan for my life. I no longer found this old flame appealing, and knowing what I know now, I would have gladly chosen to be dumped.

(Thank You, Jesus!)

Here’s a suggestion, straight out of the Garden of Gethsemane. Let’s learn to pray, “Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Prayer: Father, we sometimes think we know what’s best for us, and we ask according to our momentary desires without thinking or praying it through. Forgive us and help us to be wiser. Give us divine perspective, so we can pray according to Your perfect plan, not our own flawed human agenda. And when our prayers are contrary to Your will, please don’t give us what we ask for! We trust You. Help us to trust You more, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Christmas open house?)

29 thoughts on “Careful What You Ask for

  1. Ann, I love this sentence, especially: “How many times have you seen what the LORD gave you instead of what you asked for and thanked Him that He knew so much more than you did what would truly bless you?” This happened to me in regard to my original career plan, which was science and/or technical writing. I did some of that, but I became an ESL teacher, which was so much better (for me), and I also met the woman who was to become my wife as a result of where I was studying to get my M.A. at the time.

    Thanks for linking to my post; again, I’m honored!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. β€œYet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
    I cannot count the number of times that has been prayer. I also seem to have my fingers crossed sometimes without even realizing that I think I’m rolling the dice with God and hope for my desired outcome. I deceive myself all too easily.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ann, you are so right. I have grown to pray for his will to be done even when I ask for something because I know that the Lord sees the big picture and I would rather submit to His plan than give into what might seem nice for the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Annie, we can be so grateful for God’s sovereignty. His perfect will can spare us but may also have a greater purpose than just that. It might be to unfold a plan about “who He reaches” for His glory.

    If I allow myself to think that all prayers that don’t go according to what I desire are for my protection, I might be getting too self-absorbed. Jehovah has indeed protected me from my own foolishness and destructive sins, yet He chooses to work through us wretched undeserving souls to fulfill the great commission. God creates testimonies that spread the gospel and will continue to until that glorious day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is LORD.

    Have a blessed Resurrection Day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point, Manette. James and John did indeed “drink the cup” that Jesus drank (They were martyred.), but not until after they had spread the gospel to countless people.
      My book BARRIERS has the story of my friend Nancy, a missionary in Guatemala, who was on her way back to the States for her son’s graduation, when she was hit by a car full of drunken men. She was delayed for several days, spending time in jail, going hungry, and suffering undeserved indignities. She was protected from death and serious injuries, though, and although she was delayed, her ordeal resulted in the salvation of several inmates, and one of the men who struck her – a backslidden Christian who was convicted when he realized their foolishness could have killed a missionary! So yes, our disappointments could end up benefitting us or others – or both! And God gets the glory.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow good post! This made me think of the many times guys in my church years later said they were glad they didn’t married so and so after a few years looking back and seeing life trajectory….good post. Makes me want to pray for God’s Will more than my own will that goes against God’s Wisdom

    Liked by 1 person

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