33 Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum. When they went into a house there, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But the followers did not answer, because their argument on the road was about which one of them was the greatest. 35 Jesus sat down and called the twelve apostles to him. He said, “Whoever wants to be the most important must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then Jesus took a small child and had him stand among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said, 37 “Whoever accepts a child like this in my name accepts me. And whoever accepts me accepts the One who sent me.” ~ Mark 9:33-37
Today we return to our study of Mark 9 where we discover the Lord Jesus in the final months prior to His cross. Here, the Lord Jesus is in the middle of preparing His disciples for His departure from this earth.
The main theme in Mark 9 has been discipleship. God's idea of discipleship and ours are not quite the same. Where His idea of discipleship leads us to the place that we decrease, our idea of discipleship leads to the place where we increase. Where His idea of discipleship increasingly puts the spot light on Him, our idea of discipleship increasingly puts the spotlight on us.
In v.33-34 of today's passage we read, "33 Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum. When they went into a house there, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But the followers did not answer, because their argument on the road was about which one of them was the greatest."
Here, we see the disciples positioning for greatness. The world's idea of success is to work hard, earn money, buy toys, climb to the top, lie, cheat, and steal, as long as we succeed in the end. The Lord Jesus invites us to a much different culture. This world's culture slaps us on the back and lauds us for our good successes. But, His is a culture of selflessness. His culture navigates us to consider the need of other’s as more important than our own. His way leads us to serve those around us, instead of expecting them to serve us. According to the Lord Jesus, we truly live the abundant life that He has promised when we dethrone and die to self.
In v.35 of today's passage we read, "Jesus sat down and called the twelve apostles to him. He said, 'Whoever wants to be the most important must be last of all and servant of all.'"
According to the culture of the Lord Jesus, being first means being last. And being last means being a servant. But the disciples had not shirked this world's culture that they had long been defined by. Like them, the world has convinced us that we can do acts of service and still not be servants. In the culture of God, servanthood is a must for the disciple of Christ. And, if our intended outcome is personal recognition, we will not be defined by God as servants. True servanthood begins with selflessness which will seek the good of others. This only happens as we are engaged in a meaningful relationship with the Lord Jesus who fully understands our greatest enemy is within us.
In v.36-37 of today's passage we read, "36 Then Jesus took a small child and had him stand among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said, 37 'Whoever accepts a child like this in my name accepts me. And whoever accepts me accepts the One who sent me.'"
That day, when the Lord Jesus took that child into His arms, He spoke a language that was foreign to the culture that His disciples had grown up in. At that time, their world did not find any value in a kid. But, according to the Lord's culture, a dependent child is the greatest. Like the disciples, we most often have a contrary understanding of greatness than the Lord. In fact, their argument in that house that day revealed their ignorance of the ways of the Lord.
Having said that, the Lord Jesus did not rebuke the disciples for wanting to be great. He didn't because He made us to desire to succeed at whatever we do. What the Lord Jesus did do was to tell the disciples the true way to greatness. True greatness is not accessed by seeking to be first, it is accessed by a willingness to be last. According to God's culture, greatness is when we are defined by Him which will always lead us to the ambition of pleasing Him.
True greatness is championed when we serve the insignificant and expect nothing in return. True greatness desires to serve in the name of our Savior, so that He gets the glory. Serving the insignificant comes on the heels of being defined by God. But, our problem is we are relentless worshipers of self. It is our nature to worship ourselves. But, when we come into a personal relationship with Christ, He teaches us to be defined by those things which are contrary to our natural way of living. And, His culture is dominated by the fruits of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.