See, the disciples are following Jesus to Jerusalem, and Jesus tells them: "When we get to Jerusalem, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, beat him with their whips, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again."
Then, right after that (in the very next verse!), James and John come up to Jesus and say, "Teacher, we want you to do us a favor. In your glorious kingdom, we want to sit in places of honor next to you."
Now this request isn't so shocking to me (we all like honor) as the timing of it. Jesus has just told them all of the horrible things that are going to happen to him in Jerusalmen -- Jesus is walking the road to Jerusalem -- to his horrible fate, and then James and John have the audacity to make their request for honor!! They are thinking of themselves and their honor in light of what Jesus is facing! How could they!!??
Well, it's easy to condemn them -- until I hold the mirror up to reality and realize that I'm no different. In the face of what others are suffering, I can still think solely of myself and how everything affects me. I'm quite sure I've listened to people telling me about the pain they are enduring and the difficulties they are facing all the while waiting for the opportunity to ask them for what I want -- what I need from them. Sure, I know it's wrong and selfish, just like James and John had to know it wasn't a good time to ask Jesus for their favor, but then, that's our ugly human nature. It makes us see only what we need.
As the old DC Talk song, "In the Light" says: