Text: Mark 9:30-37
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
At times we all can see the value of our work and service we give as greater than that of others, even though everything that we have is received as a gift from God.
Jesus begins to teach his disciples about his ultimate goal, and the mission and reason for his coming … saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”
This is a hard saying for the disciples to hear and our text says …
32 … they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
Maybe they were thinking, “Who is the Son of Man as this is a reference to God and what about killing him and after three days rising from the dead?”
Certainly it was a confusing statement from Jesus and not understood by the disciples to the point that they were afraid to ask as we Lutheran’s ask:
What does this mean?
As Christians the questions of life and faith are connected to our very being. We at times see God’s word through the lens of our own desires and needs. We value our own opinion and use it to interpret scripture rather than letting scripture interpret scripture. We try to make scripture say what we want it to say instead of understanding it in the context and way that God has revealed it for our benefit.
The disciples want to know and have discussed among themselves on the way and even arguing who is the greatest. Jesus knows, but asks, “What were you discussing on the way?”
It reminds me of a parent asking a child what had happened … and you get the silent treatment … like they know this was wrong but we wanted to do it anyway.
Remember from last week’s reading the father’s voice from the crowd calling out and pleading to Jesus?
“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” … they were not able …
And now they argue among themselves … about who was the greatest.
Pride can be a terrible thing.
G. Gordon Liddy, Watergate conspirator [upon his] released from prison said: "I have found within myself all I need and all I ever shall need. I am a man of great faith, but my faith is in George Gordon Liddy.”
“I have never failed me."
The Christian Century, Sept. 28, 1977, p. 836.
Liddy needed to consult Ben Franklin where he wrote:
There is perhaps no[t] one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.
Benjamin Franklin, from his autobiography.
There is a difference in taking pride in the work you do and thanking God for giving you the gifts and ability to serve … verses the pride of thinking oneself better than those who can’t do or help in the same way as you.
The disciples were seeing themselves with the latter focus rather than the former. How do we each measure up in regards to that same question? I’m sure we all fall short at times.
So it was time for a family meeting. Jesus called them all to gather together.
35 And [Jesus] sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Wow … there’s a turn of phrase for you. To be first requires being last to lead … you must serve all. Parents know that. They lead by serving – first they serve their spouse and as a married couple they become one flesh and think and act with the others needs in mind. And certainly if they have children they do all for their child. They live there life in service to the needs of their children.
Don’t believe me, just ask a parent what they are doing and you will hear, “Well, Monday’s we have dance, or soccer, or confirmation or … you name it. Children are dependent on their parents for everything and parent serve their need at least until they teach them the valuable lesson about taking care of themselves.
So Jesus gives the disciples and us an object lesson.
36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
A wonderful picture of this reality is seen when parents bring their children to baptism and serve the needs of those who are unable to serve themselves.
The greatest in the Kingdom are those who receive Jesus, and you and I can have great joy as well in the gift given us as we joy in serving the needs of those who we have responsibility over.
Let us not, groan and make noise daily whether what we do or what others don’t do in the work or the way we serve when it is God who has done all for our benefit.
Rather, let us like little children, cared for by loving parents and our heavenly Father, joy in all that has been done on our behalf so that we too can, as servants, serve the needs of those who have been place in our care; and care for those that we come across with the love of Christ and the message of forgiveness found only in the gospel of peace.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit