Wednesday 29 July, 2015

Mark 9:33-37

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.”

After Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been thrown into prison he moved from his hometown of Nazareth to Capernaum a fishing village on the shores of the Lake of Galilee.

We should read this passage in the context of the on-the-job training which Jesus continually gave his disciples. On the way from Galilee to Capernaum Jesus taught them about his coming death and resurrection [Mark 9:30-32]. When they arrived home, Jesus realised that they had been arguing about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus knew this, so he sat with them and gave what was one of his most significant teachings – about greatest. To be great, take last place and be the servant of all!

In three of the Gospels [Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:36-37; Luke 9:48] the focal point of Jesus’ teaching here is a small child. Matthew captures the essence of the teaching. “unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…. whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I recognise that there are many leadership models promoted in the world and in the Church, but if I am to obey the teaching of Jesus there is only one effective model – that of servanthood.

Holy Spirit I ask that you keep control of my life so that I don’t divert into accepting the world’s standards.

Written by Keith Bennett

5 replies
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    love your thought Keith. Makes me want to watch my children more closely and take notes!

  2. Justin Ware says:

    Greatness is something that I have meditated on from time to time over the years and this passage has often been the focal point of my thinking.

    Clearly there is a long running, hearty competitiveness amongst the disciples, but when they are asked by Jesus what they were discussing in this instance, they seem shamed to silence. I wonder if they had realised the petty Ness of their debate or whether they just did not know or understand at this point how Jesus would respond to the question of greatness.

    Christ doesn’t try to create a level playing field or give a theology of all men being created equal, but instead seeks to subvert their thinking. He points to a new model of leadership that is not based solely on skill, training or ability but instead on the disposition of the leaders heart.

    I love that Jesus works to stimulate further questions instead of providing all the answers here. Furthermore the ultimate answer to the question of who is the greatest was not demonstrated fully until later – by his sacrifice in going to the cross.

    Lord, help me to be a servant in my heart, to ensure that I am continually mindful of those around me and what their true, deepest needs are.

  3. Richard says:

    I love how Jesus confronts the disciples here head on, asking them about what they had been arguing about. I get the impression He knew, but asked to see if they would ‘fess’ up.

    Jesus sits down in vs 35, which suggests a more formal pose to teach them, rather than the incidental walking beside them that had occurred along the road. I get the impression Jesus was deliberately teaching them, He wanted to make a point, to make clear that the kingdom is run on different principles.

    A child was a nobody, seen, never heard, never counted as important, except in the sense of the firstborn male heir in this culture. So to make the statement Jesus takes a little child, into His arms, that is a little child, and says effectively, serve this child, welcome this child, do so under my authority and you will have real relationship with me, you will then have the true heart of leadership. The child represents the lowest, serve him, making yourself lower, i.e. nothing is beneath you and you will have the kingdom I your heart.

  4. Travis says:

    I have never understood this concept of ‘the last will be first’, I’ve always battled with it when hearing or reading scripture. But today it jumped out of the page at me, prompting me to read again. After reading on to your responses, my sudden understanding has been confirmed and enriched by you all, thanks!

  5. David Newton says:

    Servant Leadership: If every person in authority in the entire world was made to study this concept I wonder how different would the world be ???

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