Summary: Ordinary Proper 20: The disciples argued about who was the greatest. Jesus told them that He - the Creator - would be betrayed and be killed. Jesus showed greatness through humility.
What a ride! Can you imagine – I mean can you even begin to imagine – hanging out with the Creator of the universe!?! To see Him smile; to hear Him teach; to watch Jesus as He lived life with the zest and with the love that our Creator intended from the beginning – what a rush!
But I wonder if we could handle it? I wonder if we could simply live with the joy of a relationship with Christ? Some of the disciples had been to a mountaintop and watched Jesus change so that his dazzling holiness shone through his humanity – and when the Father said, “This is my beloved Son,” they fell flat on their faces - it awed them! Jesus had shown his power over evil spirits. He exorcised demons, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the mute, life to the dead! And the disciples had seen it all.
This was all in a day’s work for Jesus. He came to win salvation for all of us. God had already told people how it would happen: the suffering Messiah – God in the flesh who would allow Himself to suffer and die. But the disciples missed this. They – as we so often do – missed what really matters – what’s really important. Let’s read together as Jesus teaches:
They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9.30-32, NIV)
We see that Jesus made some quiet time for teaching the disciples. He got them alone, away from the rush – away from the crowds to teach them. Perhaps we need to take a hint from this! Sometimes we too need time to be alone with Christ!
A few weeks ago I visited a saint of God. This person is going through struggles and problems that make most of the things that we face pale in comparison. As we conversed, she shared with me that she and God had been having some very serious conversations – when she is alone with Him – in her room. “The conversations get really intense and we have it out,” she told me. These type of conversations – you know, the heart to heart ones – happen only when we are by ourselves with our Maker. That’s the only time that they CAN happen.
Sometimes we need to get alone with God to hear Him – to understand Him. Elijah heard God after the bustle of the wind, the shaking of the earthquake and the heat of the fire - in a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19.11ff) The Psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10) And today we see that Jesus was teaching his disciples away from the rush, away from the hustle and bustle. Why? - Because Jesus was telling them something critical, serious, intense. An alone conversation was needed.
The key point Jesus was teaching about was that He was going to be betrayed and killed. This is what the prophets of old had foretold. This is the way that God had chosen to restore humanity to him. It would take the death of Jesus. But the disciples just didn’t get it!
What do you do when a person who is amazing - whom you’ve seen raise the dead and exorcise demons and heal the lame and the mute and the deaf and the blind and the paralyzed – tells you He is going to be betrayed and killed? What do you do with that, friends? Maybe they thought, well, He’ll just sort this out the same way that He has been doing the amazing miracles we’ve seen Him do! The disciples just didn’t get it. It would take the death of Jesus to save them. What about us? Do we really get that the Lord of the Universe had to die for us to be saved? Or, do other things or other priorities get in the way? They did for the disciples. Let’s read about it:
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. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9.33-35, NIV)
“I’m greater than you,” is one of the continuing themes that kept coming back again and again. The disciples were striving to see who was top dog. Remember how James and John asking to sit at Jesus right and left. (Matthew 20.20-28) Remember how the other disciples reacted when they found out what James and John had asked for? This sort of thing happened a number of times with the disciples. Maybe the saddest time was when it happened at the Last Supper. Luke tells us, “Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” (Luke 22.24)