Mk 9: 30 – 37
Father you wait for us until we are open to you. We wait for your Word to make us receptive. Attune us to your voice, to your silence, speak and bring your Son to us – Jesus – the Word of your peace.
As you read this text note that Jesus “teaching” has been printed in blue. It is advisable to read this text a number of times. Put yourself among the disciples as they walk towards Capernaum, trying to sense their mood.
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30After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, 31because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them,
“The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.”
32But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.
33They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest.
35So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.” 36He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms around him, and said to them, 37“Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
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After the transfiguration Jesus and his disciples are travelling from Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum. Jesus has one agenda. He is intent on teaching his disciples. However the disciples had other things on their minds. They were arguing about who among them was the greatest.
Just picture the scene. Jesus is walking ahead. Perhaps he is alone or he has one or two disciples with him. The rest of the disciples are walking some distance behind and are having a very animated discussion. This continues day after day.
What could have given rise to this friction among the disciples? Is it possible that a number of them had taken offence when Jesus had singled out Peter, James and John to go up the mountain with him? These persons were determined not to be given a lesser status than others in the Kingdom. In spite of Jesus having gone to great lengths, for the second time, to tell them that he had no interest in establishing a powerful, political kingdom, they were all determined to have top jobs. How strange that, after all they had learned of Jesus’ way of doing things, they still could not change their thinking. I am sure we would probably have acted just as aggressively.
Try to imagine why they were afraid to ask Jesus to explain what he meant by saying;
“The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again”?
Perhaps they knew that if they started to challenge Jesus there was going to be quite some disagreement. They were also well aware of what had happened when Peter had challenged Jesus. (8: 32 – 33) He had been on the receiving end of a stern rebuke and none of them was going to take the same risk.
Jesus had two other important teachings for them. Both of these teachings run counter to our natural inclinations.
“The one who wants to be first, must be last and the servant of all.”
In this first teaching Jesus is calling us to service. He is encouraging us to move from our selfish self-interest to a concern for others.
“welcome one of these little children”
In the second he reminds us of the importance to have concern for those who are least in society. Just look around at the society you live in. Who are the most marginalized? Who are those who cannot stand up for themselves? Who are those who most need our help? These are the people Jesus encourages us to help.
Finally, we have a wonderful insight into Jesus’ humanity. So much tenderness is contained in the simple words, “He put his arms around him.”
Similarly in Mk 4: 3 he answers the leper “Of course I want to heal you.”