30 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.”
The First Must Be Last, and The servant of All
Jesus has a concerted effort to communicate the coming events in his life with his disciples. He has used metaphors, parables, and cryptic questioning, but having found these covert methods difficult, the disciples are still flummoxed by direct statements of Jesus’ death. The idea that someone would rise from the dead during the present age goes against the Jewish tradition that people would be raised at the end of time. They are as baffled as we would be if one of our friends told us they would die next week but be raised after three days. They believe their teacher is supernatural, but there are limits that the disciples have because they are steeped in Jewish tradition and understanding.
Most people are wondering through the world working out how to be significant. We are often competitive. In education we realise that competition is destructive when compared to collaboration. When people compete, they fight each other. When people collaborate, they fight the problem. The disciples are fighting each other. Their relationship with Jesus is one where they ride his coat tails in the hope of finding personal greatness. In fact, the disciples need to stop clamouring for the attentions of the mighty and keep embracing the naive, uneducated, downtrodden, and neglected in society. Teaching basic principles to children may not seem lofty, but it has eternal rewards.
You have walked on ahead and I walk in the dust behind you. I wish you would turn around and talk to me. When you do, it is to tell me that I have lost focus. I am squabbling with my peers and I am fighting to get ahead in the world. Let me be content with those moments when I get to hold you and wrap my arms around you. Let me keep walking the path we have trodden because I remember that at the end of the day, I get to recline and put my head on your chest. In you the weary find rest from all of our efforts to fight for recognition and significance.
- What does Jesus try and teach his disciples?
- What do the disciples fight about?
- Why do accounts of the disciples arguing come up repeatedly in the last few chapters?
- How are you fighting to get ahead?
- How are you fighting to be last?
While Jesus is trying to help his disciples understand that he is going to die for them, they are preoccupied with their own status and achievement. This is so often me. Busy and preoccupied with building my little life that I miss the eternal truths and the relationship that Jesus wants to share with me. Lord, help me to see you today and to live in your presence.
me, too. amen.