Mark 9:30-37 30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 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.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 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.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
What makes a secret a secret? Nobody else knows. The disciples of Jesus had been taught a secret- that He would die and after three days would rise. Nobody else in Israel knew this. As Jesus and His disciples returned to Capernaum in Galilee from Caesarea Philippi where He had first told them, they returned in secret not drawing crowds as they had done previously. Although the disciples had doubted Jesus when He first told them about His death and resurrection and unbelief had crept into their hearts, they had been reassured by the demoniac boy being set free. Jesus healed the boy when the disciples had been unable. He was still sovereign over all and in control of all things. All of this took place after Jesus had given Peter, James, and John a glimpse of His future glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. They had been shown in what manner Jesus would appear after He had risen from the dead.
None of this made any sense to the disciples. They continued to follow Jesus but did not understand what He meant when He told them that He would be killed by the hands of men and after three days rise. But they did remember that all of this happened after Peter declared to Jesus that He is indeed the Christ which was also to be a secret (Mark 8:29-30). The disciples had previously believed that Jesus was the Christ when they began to follow Him but He acted in a manner that none of them expected. The Kingdom of God that Jesus was establishing was not the same as the nation of Israel that they expected Jesus to rule. This is why it was not a simple thing for Peter to provide a correct response to Jesus’ question of who they thought He was. Jesus was establishing a new kingdom that would be manifest on earth by the Church.
As they returned to Capernaum they knew something about Jesus that no one else knew. They must have sensed a change in tone in the actions of Jesus as He prepared to go to the cross. But instead of seeking God in humility asking for understanding for what they had just heard, they drifted back to what they had previously believed. They made Jesus’ teaching fit into what they thought they already knew about the Christ. And instead they added to it an elevated view of themselves believing that because of the secret that they had been told that they would soon receive positions of power in Jesus Christ’s Kingdom. Adding to this struggle for power was the fact that Peter, James, and John had been given an additional secret separate from the rest of the disciples as they had witnessed Jesus transfigured on the mountain but were told not to tell anyone what they had seen until after Jesus rose from the dead.
How dangerous pride can be. So soon after being in utter confusion about what Jesus had told them, these same disciples were fighting over which of them would be greatest in His Kingdom- a kingdom of which they still did not understand. They knew their argument was not pleasing to God for when Jesus asked them what they were talking about they refused to answer.
How does Jesus correct them? He tells them in verse 35, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” He utterly destroys their prideful ambition by telling them to be last of all. How humbling it is for a person at the front of a line to be told to go to the back. How natural it is for us to seek our own desires above the needs of others. And then Jesus takes a young child in His arms. He says in verse 37, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” The disciples saw the greatness of Jesus as the Christ and desired in a prideful manner to be nearest to Him in power and authority in His Kingdom. A young child does not demonstrate any strength or ability but rather weakness and dependence upon their parents. None of the disciples would rather take care of the child in Jesus’ arms for the day instead of being in the presence of Jesus and yet Jesus says whoever receives a child in His Name, receive Him. They could draw nearer to Jesus in caring for that child than they could in the arguments about who was the greatest.
In all these things Jesus conveys the idea that His Kingdom is a kingdom of humility. All those in the Kingdom of God see their utter depravity and realize that they do not deserve to be among those who are saved. The servants of God are not aspiring to be greater than each other but rather are willing to do the most trivial and meaningless task. And yet the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than the most powerful man on earth. The disciples were still thinking of the Kingdom of God as an earthly kingdom in spite of all that Jesus had already taught them about this spiritual kingdom that is here and now in the presence of Jesus and will one day in the future be established for all eternity.
Can you honestly say that you desire to be last of all? Are you living your life only for the glory of God or are you hoping to be recognized by those around you as someone who is great? None of the disciples were recognized by the religious leaders as great men but as they followed Jesus they still fell into pride. It’s a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus will reveal to you amazing things and even secrets of which an unbeliever will never comprehend. And yet, we are to show the utmost humility. We are not to boast in what God accomplishes through us but simply give God the glory for what He has done. We are to be like Jesus who became the servant of all in dying for you and for me:
Philippians 2:6-8 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Pastor Murray Hack