Sunday 23 September 2018

Bible Book:

Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. (v. 35)

Mark 9:30-37 Sunday 23 September 2018

Psalm: Psalm 1


Jesus is returning to the base of his ministry around Galilee at Capernaum, where the ‘house’ in v. 33 may well be Simon Peter’s (see Mark 1:29). Often in Mark’s gospel Jesus seeks to avoid crowds because they do not yet understand the significance of his healing miracles as a sign of his mission, but here he desires private space to teach the disciples, for they have not yet taken on board his plan to die and be raised from the dead. This is the second of three attempts (the others are in Mark 8:31 and Mark 10:33-34) that Jesus makes to tell them plainly how his life will end. Even if they hear clearly enough what he says about betrayal and death, their failure to understand (v. 32) is due to their continuing allegiance to popular culture in which the expected God-sent Messiah would achieve political triumph as well as demonstrate spiritual authority.

The word “betrayed” means more literally “handed over into the power of others”, and whilst Judas would thus deliver Jesus to the Jewish council, who would hand him over to Pilate, who in turn would deliver him to the soldiers to be crucified, the full phrase “betrayed into human hands” hints at the real truth that God handed Jesus over for our sins (see Romans 8:32 and Romans 4:25).

Common etiquette had clear understandings of who might, for example, speak first in synagogue or law court or help themselves first at a meal. The disciples’ reluctance to reveal to Jesus that they’d been arguing over which of them took precedence (v. 34) suggests that they are perhaps beginning to understand that Jesus challenges common practice. “He sat down” indicates that this is a deliberate teaching occasion, and by the words he speaks when taking a child in his arms, Jesus overturns the insignificance of children in the world at that time. Giving first place to a child is tantamount to welcoming Jesus himself, and God who sent him.


To Ponder

  • What are you afraid to ask Jesus, and why (v. 32)? Is it perhaps time you showed the courage to do so?
  • What would you consider to be the true signs of greatness? Which persons to your mind demonstrate such greatness?
  • What might it mean in practice for you to be “last of all and servant of all” (v. 35) in the different places and roles where you find yourself?
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