They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, 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.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
What sort of disciples does Jesus want following him? (Mark 9:30-32)
Every year my wife and I pray about whether now is the time God is calling us to move overseas. In the process, we consider where we’d go and all of the things we would give up to be full-time missionaries. There is much to give up if we were to ever leave. We have’t left yet, but we remember that if God is calling us to stay, we are still on full-time mission here in Orange County. Many count the cost of only leaving the place they currently dwell, rather than counting the cost of staying.
It is clear throughout the Gospel narratives that Jesus is on a mission. And he was on a mission like no other; Jesus’ ultimate purpose was to die on the cross. His disciples must then know that following Jesus might end in death.
We see in Mark 9:32, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection again. It says, “But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him”. The disciples followed Jesus for 3 years and were not usually reluctant to ask Jesus to explain difficult saying. They knew enough to be afraid to ask so they could understand more. They had a holy terror for the things that Jesus told them. He is going to eventually ask them, “Are you with me? Are you willing to suffer with me? Are you willing to follow me and my example?”
As we go through this passage in the next few blog posts, I want you to think about your response to Jesus. There are really only three options: The first is are you READY to follow Jesus wherever he goes no matter the cost? The second, are you a bit RELUCTANT to follow Jesus knowing what it is going to cost? Or lastly, are you RESISTANT to follow Jesus whether you know the cost or not—either because you don’t know what it entails or because you don’t want to listen and follow his command?
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he 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.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
(Mark 9:33-37 ESV)
Jesus wants humble disciples not arrogant disciples. (Mark 9:33-37)
As we saw last time, Jesus is on a mission, and he calls us as believers to join him on his mission. InMark 9:30-50, we see Jesus not talking to the crowds, but to the disciples. These next three sections happen sequentially. They are not disconnected, but meant to be looked at together as a whole.
Who Is the Greatest in the Kingdom?
Jesus knows what the disciples are thinking and talking about. He asks them, but they kept silent because they were arguing about who was the greatest.
So the question they ask Jesus is who is the greatest in the kingdom? We’ve all asked that ourselves right? It would be the people we wish would run for president in November right? Are the disciples really arguing about who is the greatest? Have they forgotten about all the things that Jesus did and taught? How easy is it for us to do the same? Have you had prayers answered only to forget and doubt he can answer again? Have you had God provide for finances in mysterious ways and then forget he can do it again?
Jesus uses a child to illustrate a role reversal in God’s kingdom. The first must be last and a servant. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” (Mark 9:35). In Jesus’ kingdom humility is key. It is more about defeat than victory.
Jesus uses an example of a child. In the mindset of first-century disciples, children represent the lowest order in social scale. Jesus calls us to not only be like them, but to receive and serve like them. The one who follows Jesus in the way of the cross must live a life of sacrifice and service.
Think about Jesus – he was the most humble man to ever walk the earth. He came from heaven as God and took on human flesh. Philippians says “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross” (Phil 2:8). The God of the universe shows us what humility is. The all-knowing and all-powerful God of the universe is the example of perfect humility.
How do we respond to Jesus’ call to come with him to Jerusalem? How do we respond in humility?Answer: we look to none other than Jesus himself as our example. We respond with the worship of Jesus and pointing people to him. He is the greatest. We look to Jesus, not ourselves. Jesus wants disciples who will follow him on his mission to Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth—disciples that are humble and child-like, not arrogant and haughty.