Summary: You know as well as I do that keeping a secret is a tremendous burden. But it can also be an advantage, especially if you can figure out how to let people know that you know a secret without telling them the secret. Right?
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH
ILL. The bleachers are packed with family & friends. Excitement fills the air. There are feelings of pride & accomplishment, & also of relief. Present, too, are tears of joy & tears of sadness.
Faded jeans & old tennis shoes have been replaced with unaccustomed finery. The uniformity of the robes accentuates the fact that mortarboard hats are being worn at every conceivable angle.
The orchestra plays. The choir sings. And then a speaker begins the time-honored practice of seeking to impart some timeless words of advice & encouragement.
I don’t need to go on any further. We all know the scene that I am describing. It is a graduation ceremony. And in the last 40 years I have attended or participated in about 30 different graduation ceremonies. They are times of excitement as young people face whatever the future holds for them.
A. Now let’s look at our scripture text this morning, Mark 9:32-34. "They came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, ’What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest."
Mark tells us that they didn’t answer Him. They didn’t answer because they were ashamed. As long as they thought that Jesus didn’t know, it seemed reasonable. But when they realized - - -.
If they had been discussing how to have a better prayer life, or how to serve God better, they would have been eager to tell Jesus about that. They would have said, "Lord, we just had the greatest discussion! Now we know how to pray better, & now we know how to serve you more completely." They would have been anxious to tell Him about that. But they kept silent because they had argued about which of them was the greatest.
B. We wonder, "How did this happen, anyway? Why were they arguing about who was the greatest?"
Mark doesn’t tell us, but may I suggest a possibility? Do you remember what had happened shortly before they began arguing about who was the greatest? You’ll find the answer in the first 12 verses of the 9th chapter.
You see, Peter & James & John had just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration. There they had seen Jesus talking with Moses & Elijah. They had even heard the voice of God Himself from the cloud saying, "This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!" It had been a wonderful & inspiring experience.
But as they were coming down Jesus had cautioned Peter, James, & John not to tell anyone what they had seen until after His resurrection.
Now you know as well as I do that keeping a secret is a tremendous burden. But it can also be an advantage, especially if you can figure out how to let people know that you know a secret without telling them the secret. Right?
C. Here is where I want to use my imagination. The Bible doesn’t mention it, but I can just imagine something like this happening.
Peter, James & John are all excited, & maybe Peter says something like this, "That was the most wonderful thing that has ever happened in my life." James adds, "For me, too. I’ve never ever seen anything like that." And John chimes in, "I hope we can go back to that mountain soon, & see it again."
Now when the rest of the apostles heard them talking like that, can’t you imagine their curiosity? "What are you talking about? What did you see?"
Then Peter might have replied, "Well, we really can’t say. Maybe someday we can tell you what we saw on top of the mountain, but right now Jesus only wants the 3 of us to know, & we’ve been instructed not to tell anybody else."
If Peter really said something like that, then I can just hear Andrew responding, "You think you’re pretty great, don’t you? I’m the one who introduced you to Jesus in the first place. If it hadn’t been for me you wouldn’t even be here. You’re not nearly as important as you think you are."
Maybe the Zealot said, "Well, wait a minute now. It’s my enthusiasm that keeps this group going. The rest of you would have given up a long time ago if it weren’t for me."
One right after another they must have all proclaimed their own greatness.
D. Amazingly enough, they thought that Jesus didn’t know what they were discussing. But He knew what was in their hearts, & even though they didn’t answer His question, Jesus knew exactly what they had been talking about. So He begins to talk about greatness.
"Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve & said, ’If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, & the servant of all.’" [Mark 9:35]