Then James and John – the sons of Zebedee – approached him and said, “Master, will you do something for us?” “What do you want me to do?” Jesus asked. They responded, “Allow us to sit – one on your right and the other on your left – in your glory.” But Jesus replied, saying, “You don’t know what you are asking: Can you drink from the cup that I drink from? And be immersed in the water I am immersed in?” They replied, “We can.” So Jesus responded, “Then certainly you will drink from the cup that I drink from and be immersed in the waters that I am immersed in. But to sit on my right and on my left is not mine to give – this is given to those who have become prepared.” (Mark 10:35-40)
What does it mean to sit on the right and left of Jesus?
The Greek phrase is δεξιῶν καὶ εἷς ἐξ ἀριστερῶν καθίσωμεν. This means literally, "seated at the left and the right."
Are John and James asking Jesus if they can literally sit on the right and left side of Jesus? Such a notion is nonsensical. As if Jesus would be sitting around all the time.
To 'sit on the right and left' is metaphorical. It means to be given a space - given a reservation. John and James are asking Jesus if he will reserve a place for them in heaven - the spiritual realm.
Jesus used similar terminology when he said:
“You have said this – nonetheless I say to you that afterward you will see the Servant of Humanity sitting at the right side of the Mighty One – appearing within the spiritual realm.” (Matt. 26:64)But here Jesus explains the nuance of this phrase - as it relates to Jesus being God's servant. This terminology has survived to this day. A person who is considered a "right-hand man" is considered the assistant to that person. It means a person who is dedicated to the central person.
What does "in your glory" mean?
The Greek word, δόξα (doxa) refers to splendor or glory, but more importantly, "a most glorious condition, most exalted state" according to the lexicon. This is referring to Jesus' exalted position as being with the Supreme Being in the spiritual realm.
In other words, they are asking Jesus if he can reserve a place for them in heaven.
This is not something that Jesus can do
One might think that if Jesus were God - as many sectarian institutions profess - that certainly he could reserve a place for them in heaven.
But Jesus is not God.
This is why Jesus said they don't know what they are asking.
Jesus then says it even more clearly when he says: "But to sit on my right and on my left is not mine to give..."
If Jesus were God, then certainly this would be God's to give. But since Jesus isn't God, he could not give them a reservation into heaven.
Certainly, Jesus is confirming that he is not the Supreme Being.
"... those who have become prepared."
But Jesus isn't even saying that God would give them a reservation to heaven. Rather, Jesus is stating that this entrance is given to those who have become prepared.
This paints an entirely different picture of going to heaven than many sectarian teachers portray. Even James and John got this wrong.
The common understanding is that a person automatically goes to heaven once their sins are cleaned off. As if Jesus is a big firehose that flushes all of the dirt off. And once the dirt (sins) is cleaned off, we automatically go to heaven.
Jesus is not teaching this. Jesus is teaching preparedness. We have to first decide we want to go to the spiritual realm.
Then we must become prepared in order to enter into the spiritual realm.
This means we have to decide to become prepared. It is an effort that must be undertaken voluntarily.
This is why Jesus asked them if they were prepared to drink from the cup that Jesus drank from. This means they are prepared to sacrifice everything to serve and please the Supreme Being - as Jesus was doing.
How does a person become prepared?
The question now becomes how one becomes prepared to return to the spiritual realm?
You see, the spiritual realm is not just a location that one must travel to. One must have a certain state of consciousness.
This was confirmed by Jesus when he taught:
Neither can you declare, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Because the sanctuary of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)The "sanctuary of God" is not precisely the spiritual realm, but we have to have entered the sanctuary of God to enter the spiritual realm. And the sanctuary of God is within us because it is a particular state of consciousness.
One must have a particular consciousness to enter the spiritual realm.
It is an issue of consciousness. We must have developed the consciousness to return to the spiritual realm.
The consciousness of the spiritual realm
What is that consciousness? It is the consciousness of being in love with God, and taking shelter of God. This is the meaning of "sanctuary of God" as well. To gain the sanctuary of God means to take shelter of God. It means to become dependent upon the Supreme Being. It also means that God is at the center of our lives.
The reason this is required in order to be prepared to enter the spiritual realm is because the spiritual realm is that place where God is the center. It is that place where the Supreme Being is loved and cared for above all else. It is that place where the Supreme Being is our soul mate.
Jesus has communicated that this is his consciousness, as he said:
"By myself I can do nothing; As I hear, I make choices, and my choices are just because I do not seek to please myself but to please Him who sent me." (John 5:30)