They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. 33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” 36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “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.”Mark 9:30-37
In my previous post I wrote about Peter, and that in his humanness he missed Jesus’ big picture because he was holding too tightly to his understanding, or in this case, his misunderstanding of the Messiah. He and the other Jews had created this image of a great military and political leader who would swoop in and save them all from the Romans. They were basing this man made messianic leader on human values and understanding not on God’s more excellent way. As a result, Peter suffered a rebuke from Jesus, which I can only imagine was difficult for him. It is hard to be called out for our mistakes, especially by Jesus.
With that all in mind I direct us this week to another gospel passage where we find ourselves, once again with Jesus and his disciples walking along through Galilee on their way to Capernaum. The Scripture tells us that they are alone and Jesus is continuing to teach them about his impending fate, by that I mean his betrayal, arrest, death and resurrection. He wants them to be prepared for what is coming, and it is quite clear that they are just not getting it.
How do we know this? Well, if they understood the true nature of the Messiah do you think they’d be arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest? No, if they were following Jesus fully and not their ideals and idols they’d be getting the hint, and would be preparing themselves for servanthood not trying to elevate themselves to a place of prestige.
These guys were so far from understanding the real meaning of the Messiah and the Kingdom of God for that matter. Blinded by earthly values and interpretations, they failed to look at things from God’s perspective. William Barclay wrote, “There is something heartbreaking in the thought of Jesus going towards the cross and his disciples arguing about who would be the greatest.”
In season two of The Chosen series one of the most powerful episodes is one where we see this depicted. The entire episodes takes place in the camp of Jesus and his disciples, Jesus isn’t there but his disciples are sitting around a fire and having a conversation about all that’s happening. They are talking about Jesus, about this movement they are a part of, about their roles and tasks and you can feel as the anger and frustration builds. This continues in the episode more and more to the point where everyone is shouting and angry, all thinking they are the most important, or the most needed, or the best at assisting Jesus and in the midst of their argument Jesus comes walking by. It’s now night time, and he’s just finished ministering to the people, casting out demons, healing the sick, praying with them, all day long. He’s dirty, sweaty, tired from standing, and he goes limping past his friends, as they stand there finally silent.
While his disciples fought amongst themselves about who was the best and the greatest, Jesus was serving those in need. He was living in obedience and compassion. The ironic thing about this is, Jesus was the only one in that group, he’s the only one ever, who could actually be called the greatest. Yet in his greatness he becomes the lowest, he becomes a servant.
In the Gospel passage we read that Jesus asks them what they are arguing about, I guarantee he already knew but he still asks the question. It’s a tad different than the way The Chosen presents it, because Jesus doesn’t ask. His mere presence among them is enough to get them to shut up.
Mark says that Jesus gathered his disciples around him to teach them that whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. In this series, the disciples get the message by seeing Jesus in action and immediately you can see they are convicted, and I’d hope that in that conviction they come a little closer to getting it.
As Christians, we are all called to love and serve with great compassion and to follow the example Christ has set before us and be willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. As Christians we are called to live in humility and servanthood. As Christians we are called to put the aspirations of being the greatest aside and simply love, the way a child loves.
Loving without overthinking. Loving without selfish gain. Loving unconditionally. Humbling ourselves and coming to meet others where they are
Jesus makes a beautiful gesture that probably goes unnoticed most of the time and that is, after he called out the disciples for their arguing, he sat down. He didn’t elevate himself, like a typical teacher would, he sat down with them, showing compassion for their human nature, for their misunderstanding, and humbled himself meeting them where they were with the intent to raise them up as the future leaders of his church.
We’re all called to servanthood, there’s no way around it if we want to be true followers of Christ, we must follow his example and become a servant to all.