Sunday 23 September 2012

Bible Book:

"He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, 'Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.' Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.'" (vv. 35-37)

Mark 9:30-37 Sunday 23 September 2012


Jesus has just healed a boy whose condition was attributed to anevil spirit (verses 14-29), and is now returning to his Galileeministry base in Capernaum; the house referred to in verse 33 isprobably Peter's (Mark 1:29). Quite often Mark's Gospel showsJesus wanting people to keep his healing ministry secret because itrisks them embracing a deficient view of his mission, but here thereason why he doesn't want people to know he's back home appears tobe because he wants time to teach the twelve disciplesprivately.

The heart of his teaching concerns his forthcoming death andresurrection. This is the second of three attempts that Jesus makesto get across this truth about the nature and outcome of hismission; the others are in 8:31 and 10:33-34. On the first occasion Peter rebukedhim for suggesting such a scenario; this time there are nooutbursts but we are told that they didn't understand but wereafraid to ask (verse 32). Perhaps this is because they felt itwould upset Jesus to say more or more likely because they were indenial in relation to his determination to take such a path.

This passion prediction is briefer than the first; the word"betrayed" (v. 31) means 'handed over' or 'delivered up', and whenit came about, whilst Judas's betrayal handed Jesus over to theJewish council (Mark 14:43-51), that council subsequentlydelivered him over to Pilate (Mark15:1), and Pilate handed him over to the soldiers for execution(Mark 15:6-15). But the word might also behinting at the real truth that God gave Jesus up for our sins, asstated in Romans 8:32 (See also Romans4:25; Isaiah 53:6).

The concept of precedence or priority was important etiquette inrelation to such matters as speaking first at Synagogue or in a lawcourt, or who served themselves first at a meal. But the disciples'silence in verse 34 suggests they feel some shame at arguing aboutwhich of them is most important. Jesus turns on its head allreceived wisdom on the issue. Children were given very littlesignificance in the Greek/Roman culture of those times, so thevisual aid Jesus uses to teach is very powerful. "In my name" couldmean 'because the welcoming one is a believer' or 'because thechild represents me', or 'because this is what I want tohappen'.

In John's Gospel Jesus often describes himself as sent by God(eg John 8:28-29), as he does at the end of thispassage, but see also Mark12:6.

To Ponder

  • Are there things that you are afraid to ask Jesus (verse 32)?What are they, and why is that?
  • In what areas of your life are you tempted to argue (either inconversation or to yourself) that you are greater or better thansomeone else?
  • What might it mean in practice for you to be "last of all andservant of all" (verse 35)?
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