Feb 28 2013 - Mark 9:30-10:12 – Greatness
As Jesus is walking with his disciples through Galilee on the way to Capernaum, he talks to them of how he will be put to death but will rise again on the third day. We are told that they do not understand what he is talking about. The extent of their failure to understand their master becomes clear in the hot debate they are having behind his back; they are arguing with one another as to who shall be the greatest.
The desire for power is natural to us. When God created human beings he gave them authority to rule over all that he had made. The problems occur when we seek to rule over one another and when we seek to reorder our world so that it serves our own ends. It becomes a recipe for conflict, destruction and disaster.
Jesus came to demonstrate a new model of Lordship; a new model of leadership. And yet those who were closest to him seem to have been very slow to understand. I am reminded of Jesus' words to Philip, recorded in John 14:9, "Don't you know me ... even after I have been among you such a long time?"
Jesus tells the disciples, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35). To be a disciple is to learn from and become like one's master. Jesus, the Lord of glory, came into this world to lay down his life for us. We follow him not as we seek power and recognition, not as we seek to dominate others and bend them to our will, but as we serve others and give ourselves to their blessing and flourishing.
But it is part of the paradox of the gospel that it not only humbles the proud, it also dignifies the humble. Jesus took a child in his arms and said, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me" (9:37).
The child, no more than the adult, is naturally submissive – the point is not to admire the child. Jesus is challenging his disciples concerning the way we attribute status and worth to ourselves and to others. In the first century, a child was not regarded as a significant person. They had the lowest place in the social pecking order. Jesus encourages his disciples to have time for those that society thinks unimportant or insignificant. No one was insignificant in the eyes of the Lord Jesus and none should be viewed as without worth in the eyes of his disciples. In addition, he suggests that his disciples should be happy to lack recognition by others. The humble find in Christ's embrace that they are made children of the living God. Surely this is status enough!
The kingdom of God turns the values of this world upside down.
My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant...
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble. (Luke 1:48-48, 51-52)
Heavenly Father, thank you that, through the humble sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, I have been made a child of the living God and a member of your kingdom. Help me to learn of Christ and to have no ambition beyond that of following him and serving him. Keep me from treating anyone as insignificant or not worthy of my attention. Help me to be ready to serve others in Jesus’ name and to give myself to their encouragement and blessing.