Summary: Apostles, Pt. 10
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE NEED TO BE RIGHT? (MARK 9:33-37)
A “yield” traffic sign is easily spotted. It indicates that a driver of a vehicle must slow down and prepare to stop if necessary (usually while merging into traffic on another road), but he does not need to stop if there is no reason to. A driver who has actually stopped in this situation is said to have yielded the right-of-way to through traffic on the main road. Do you know if two cars reach the intersection at the same time, the one on the left has to yield to the one on its right?
Let me test you drivers: Who yields when two lanes are merging into the freeway? Let me restate it in more ambiguous ways: Who yields when you are the second car behind a driver with no cars on the other stop signs, but suddenly another car arrives on a stop sign opposite you, wanting to cut across your lane? Who yields when two lanes are merging into the freeway? What to do when a carpool lane and a regular lane driver merge into the freeway? The safest and wisest answer is yield. If not, a collision would occur, damage is inevitable and your insurance will go up.
Mark 9:35 is the first of four fascinating exchanges of Jesus with the disciples on servanthood. The other instances are with James and John’s mother (Matt 20:26), the disciple reclining at the table (Lk 22:24-27) and Jesus washing the disciples feet (John 13:16). The difference between Matthew and Mark is that the theologian John, who has a unique style from other gospel authors, prefers to use the word “doulos” for servant. After the disciples had witnessed the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), there was a mad scramble, a heated debate and an intense argument about who’s better, who’s greater and who’s the fairest of them all. They knew Jesus’ worth, but what were they worth, who’s first and who’s better?
How should believers respond to comparisons, competition and conflict? Why is rivalry hurtful to the body and the work of Christ?
Reject Power Under Every Circumstance
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. (Mark 9:33-37)
Here are some quotes on arguing:
“Never Argue With An Idiot. He’ll Drag You Down To His Level And Then Beat You With Experience.” - Alan Zimmerman
“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” - Mark Twain
“Never argue with a pig. Both of you will get dirty, but the pig will enjoy it .”
“When arguing with a stone an egg is always wrong.”
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” - Marcus Aurelius
“Pianists don’t argue too much generally because we have such a hard time just getting things right; arguing is for string players.” - Emanuel Ax
“The only argument available with an east wind is to put on your overcoat.” -
James Russell Lowell
The word for “arguing” is dia-logizomai; “dia” is thorough, through and through (diagnose, diaspora, diameter), and “logizomai” is estimate or conclude, from the word “logos” and “logic.” Their argument was detailed, methodical and lengthy. By arguing no-stop, the disciples have become argumentative, quarrelsome, grouchy, testy and unfriendly.
It was no small argument on the road. They went back and forth, on and on, point by point to talk up their strengths and merits. Even though the Greek word for “argue” previously characterized the disciples’ bewilderment over one of Jesus’ miracle (Matt 16:8, Mark 2:8), this is the only time an argument occurred among and with the disciples in the gospels, so it caught the master’s attention. It must have fierce and feisty, not friendly or funny. Luke has the noun “argument” (Luke 9:46) instead of the verb “arguing” (v 33), but both authors record the first time the disciples were “arguing” with one another and had an “argument” - at one another’s throat and in one another’s face. It was such a loss of testimony, but a good education time for the Lord.
Readers know the disciples were guilty because they kept quiet (v 34) at the wrong time, like a deer caught in headlights and a child caught with hands in the cookie jar. Previously, they spoke to one another for the wrong reasons, with the wrong attitude and at the wrong time. Presently, they acted innocent and played dumb when they were asked what the dispute was about. No one wanted to owe up to the argument. The amazing thing was that in the previous verse Jesus 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.” They did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:31-32) Instead, they had become polarizing, personal and petty.