Lesson 47

The Gospel According to Mark

World English Bible translation

Today's Scripture

9:33 He came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing among yourselves on the way?"

9:34 But they were silent, for they had disputed one with another on the way about who was the greatest.

9:35 He sat down, and called the twelve; and he said to them, "If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." 9:36 He took a little child, and set him in the midst of them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 9:37 "Whoever receives one such little child in my name, receives me, and whoever receives me, doesn't receive me, but him who sent me."  

Today's Lesson

Jesus had begun speaking with His disciples frankly about what would happen to Him. He told them that He would be handed over to men and would be killed. On the third day He would rise again from the dead. Perhaps this is what started the disciples to thinking about the future. As Jesus and the disciples were walking to Capernaum Mark tells us that the disciples were arguing among themselves about who was the greatest among them. If the end was near, perhaps they wanted to know who would lead the following after Jesus was gone. Or, perhaps they were simply displaying human jealousies and trying to decide which among them was the favorite of Jesus.


But in Today's Scripture, Jesus instructs them that such concerns demonstrate another complete misunderstanding that they had about the Kingdom of God. Just as they did not understand when Jesus told them that He would rise from the dead, they also did not understand about how God places value on people. Their idea of who would be greatest in the Kingdom of God was based on the perceptions of this life. In their world the greatest fisherman was the man who brought in the most fist and sold them for the greatest price. But Jesus tries to instruct them about the values of the Kingdom.


Jesus says, "If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." God's economy is often completely the opposite of ours. God places value of those who serve sacrificially. To God, the greatest of all is the man who has the strength of spirit to humble himself and serve the weak. The greatest love is the love when a man is willing to lay down His life, not only for his friends, but for his enemy as well. Such an attitude does not come naturally to us. The only way that we can develop this perspective is through long years of refinement from God's work in our lives.


The greatest example of what Jesus was speaking about of course is His own example. Even though Jesus was equal with God, He emptied Himself of all of His power and prerogative and made Himself a servant to all. Jesus took on the position of a carpenter in a backward country far from any political or religious power. And He came willingly to offer Himself as a sacrifice to all men knowing that He would be rejected and scorned.


As an example, Jesus brought a little child before them. "Whoever receives one such little child in my name, receives me, and whoever receives me, doesn't receive me, but him who sent me." A child was the lowest person of prestige in their society. In most households, even a slave of stature could order and instruct a child. A child had no rights or privileges. Jesus told them that they must be willing to become as a child in terms of power and privilege. They must be willing to serve even the least of God's people.


But even today God's people jockey among themselves for positions of authority. Many people want positions of responsibility so that they can bear the trappings of a religious authority. But, even in Christian fellowships, true service is rare and often goes without being acknowledged. A servant serves without thought of glory and without concern for whether or not what they do gets noticed. Enlightened leaders diligently search for examples of humble service and rely on those who demonstrate the heart of Christ in dealing with others. The greatest in the Kingdom of God is not the leader of the largest congregation. It is not the man who wields the pen over the largest church budget. The greatest in the Kingdom is the man who is willing to lay down his life for others. He is the man who is the first in his will to serve.


Do you want other men's approval or are you willing to serve even the least person you know? Are you willing to give up everything and live your life as Christ did?


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