BEING LAST AND LEAST
Lord, I don’t want to be first in line.
Read MARK 9:30–41
Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time
30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
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.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Whoever Is Not Against Us Is for Us
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
New International Version (NIV)
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“He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant … He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death”(Phil 2:7, 8). Thank You, Jesus, for serving me.
Today’s reading recounts another discipleship lesson “on the road” (33). This time, the disciples argue over who is most important. Jesus admonishes them and proposes a radical reversal of status and values: if you want to be first, you must become last and least. From God’s perspective, true greatness is putting others before yourself, being content at the bottom of the pile, becoming a servant of all – none of which comes naturally to any of us.
In verses 36 -37, Jesus provides a lesson in the form of a child. In ancient times (perhaps today too), a child held the least degree of status in any society. The child symbolizes new believers who still have much to learn, and Jesus tells the disciples to accept and serve such believers (FJ Moloney, The Gospel of Mark, Hendrickson, 2002, p188–189). To be great means to accept and serve everyone – especially those who are vulnerable and new to the Christian faith. Remember, Jesus never asks anything from us that He has not Himself done. John 13:1–20 and Philippians2:5–8 remind us that Jesus was willing to welcome and serve sinful humanity with no exceptions (He even washed the feet of Judas).
The incident in verses 38–41 highlights the need to recognize all who follow Jesus. The disciples begin to obstruct someone who does not follow with them, but does discipleship involve raising the issue, “Who is with us?” Jesus’ generous response shows that we cannot have a narrow or sectarian understanding of who belongs to Jesus. Allegiance to Jesus takes priority over allegiance to a particular denomination, race, or culture. Jesus challenges us to accept others who work in His name, because even the smallest service to any of His followers is important.
Think about areas in life where you find it difficult to be last and least. Pray that God may help you to grow in openness and service to His people.
Lord, enable us to regard others as You regard them. Give us the discernment to know how to regard others in a way pleasing to You.
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