Summary: As Jesus and the disciples journeyed toward Capernaum, the disciples debated among themselves which of them was the greatest. knowing their discussion, Jesus taught a lesson on serving others. To have position in the kingdom, one must be willing to serve.
The Least shall be Greatest
Mark 9: 30-41
After delivering the young man from the unclean spirit, Jesus and His disciples have departed and are on their way back to Capernaum. As they journeyed, Jesus again reminded the disciples that he would be delivered into the hands of sinful men, die, and rise again on the third day. Like previous encounters, these men heard what Jesus said, but they failed to comprehend the enormity of His words. They remained afraid to ask for clarification, (Vvs.30-32.)
It is important to keep that in mind as we move through these verses. In fact, we must always keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ in mind as we seek to serve Him and others. The Gospel should dictate our lives and purpose. Jesus wanted to emphasize His purpose for coming to earth. He had not come to establish a kingdom, and be seated as King. He had not come to be served of others, but to serve them through His great sacrifice on the cross for the sin of mankind. Our Lord humbled Himself, laying aside His glory, and hid His deity in a robe of flesh. The eternal God became man, coming to earth to die so that the children of men could become the children of God. Deity tasted death for the depraved, providing for our salvation!
With all of this in mind, I want to examine the principles revealed in the text as we consider the thought: The Least shall be Greatest.
I. The Contention among the Disciples (33-34) – And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?  But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. Mark reveals a debate that took place between the disciples as they journeyed toward Capernaum. Consider:
A. The Quarrel – As they journeyed a dispute arose among the disciples about which of them held the highest rank within their group. There were twelve of them, and one had to be the greatest. The men were jockeying for position, trying to determine the ranks of authority among them. While they clearly didn’t understand that Jesus would soon be taken from them, they were concerned with who would be in charge in His absence. Keep in mind what Jesus had told them as they journeyed to Capernaum. He had revealed that He would give His life for them, and all the world. The Christ came to serve and surrender to the Father’s will, and the disciples were arguing about who held the highest rank. Clearly they missed the point again!
Like previous passages, it would be easy for us to be judgmental toward the disciples, but things have not changed in our day. We are well aware of all that Jesus endured for us. He provided the supreme example for service, giving His life in our place. He humbled Himself and became a servant to all, and yet we worry about who is in charge or who will get the credit for our efforts. Many churches face turmoil today because personal agendas and the hunger for authority take priority over the will of God. We often want our way more than we want to please the Lord.
B. The Quietness (34) – But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. The disciples knew that Jesus would not have been pleased with their argument, so they refused to answer His question. While the Lord knew what was in their hearts, these men spoke not a word. Apparently they were convicted and ashamed, knowing the Lord would have rebuked such nonsense.
While I would never encourage disobedience, the disciples were wise to let this argument end. There would have been no point in arguing with the Lord. In fact, He is about to give them a lesson in regard to their selfish ambitions. It is never wise to argue with truth. Our Lord has given His Word to guide our lives. If the Word says it, that settles it. There is no need to argue. We can submit to God’s will or remain in disobedience. There is no other option!
II. The Illustration of Jesus (35-37) – Knowing the debate the disciples had, Jesus used a simple illustration to make a profound point. Notice:
A. The Explanation (35) – And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. In regard to their debate, Jesus offered a startling truth. He declared that if a man desired to be first in kingdom work, he must be willing to be last, submitting to serve all others. The way to be used of the Lord and secure a position of value is to be willing to be of service to the Lord and others. Greatness in ministry is secured through service.