Mark 9:30-39 NLTse Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, (31) for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” (32) They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. (33) After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” (34) But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. (35) He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” (36) Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, (37) “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.” (38) John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” (39) “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me.
Once again, Jesus is the center of this lesson. Jesus tried teaching the disciples, but it seems they didn’t learn anything. Jesus tried to teach them about His sacrifice. Did the disciples learn anything? On the road they argued about who was greatest. How could they understand Jesus’ sacrifice if they were concerned about their own glory? It was obvious, the disciples did not understand, so Jesus used a child to illustrate one point of the lesson He was teaching. Jesus repeated the word, “welcome,” a number of times. What message was Jesus trying to teach? Look at the words. Jesus is talking about welcoming Him and His Father like they would welcome a little child. Jesus is continuing His lesson on relationships.
Waking hours before sunrise, Jesus went a distance from the crowd to pray. He needed time alone from with His Father to sort out details from the past while listening to plans and direction for the future. Again it was time to repeat another lesson, so Jesus separated His disciples from the crowd. An hour before the sun rose, He quietly collected His disciples and began traveling towards Galilee.
God blessed them with a breath taking sunrise. A row of low puffy clouds in the east reflected rays from the sun in hues of red and orange. A sliver of gold highlighted the very bottom of the clouds just above the horizon as if painted by an unseen hand. Jesus paused for a moment to take in the scene. The disciples drew near to admire the view. As the crown of the sun appeared, Jesus began telling them about some of the prophecies He was sent to fulfill. “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.”
The last time Jesus tried explaining His mission on earth, Peter interrupted, took Jesus aside and told Him nothing like that could ever happen to Him. Jesus rebuked Peter, telling him, He had no choice but to fulfill the prophecies, all of them. After weeks of parables, hundreds of people healed, and a host of personal experiences designed to teach them how to understand God’s voice and His Word, it was finally time to share details about the sacrifice Jesus came to fulfill. This time the reaction was different. No one stepped forward to argue with Jesus. No one wanted to experience the embarrassment Peter endured. The fact of the matter was, they didn’t understand what Jesus was saying and were afraid to ask. Why? What made them afraid of Jesus? Who were they afraid of? Jesus or one another? The disciples revealed the answer. Instead of talking about what Jesus said, questioning one another, praying, or waiting for an answer, they changed the subject, showing the emotion still occupying their hearts. They argued about who was greatest. The disciples were afraid of one another. They were afraid of how the other disciples viewed them.
It makes no sense. Your best friend tells you He is about to die, give His life for yours, and you return the favor by worrying about how great you are? What does it mean? How does this apply to Christians carrying on the ministry Jesus’ disciples began? What lesson is being taught here? Is there anything more important in the Bible than Jesus? Was there anything more important at that moment than Jesus? Explain what Jesus means to you. What is the most important aspect about Jesus? Most people would answer along the lines of, “He died for me.” How many people can explain their relationship with Christ on a deeper level? How many are capable of explaining the prophecies Jesus fulfilled? If a friend died for you, don’t you think its important to read letters left behind explaining why the friend died? Jesus was trying to show His disciples why He was giving up His life, but they didn’t want to listen. They were more concerned about themselves than their Teacher.
Earlier Jesus took three of His disciples to a mountain so He could show them the kind of companionship He was looking for, the friendship He needed. Peter, James, and John saw Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus. They left Heaven to comfort their friend and God. Moses and Elijah knew the plan of salvation and how much Jesus needed support. Also how important it was for the disciples, all of Jesus’ followers to learn everything they can about God’s plan of salvation. This is the message Jesus gave His disciples to preach. How was Jesus going to get them to understand?
He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” The last time Jesus tried explaining the prophecies about Himself, He told the disciples, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 NLTse). Putting the two lessons together shows how patiently Jesus taught His disciples, adding one lesson to another. What was the lesson Jesus warned His disciples not to be ashamed of? It was being a servant like Jesus. The disciples put themselves in the worst position possible. While Jesus was trying to explain exactly how He came to serve the world, His disciples argued about who was greatest. Jesus knew He had to show them how their pride would make them unsuitable to serve.
The long pause told the disciples a lesson was coming. At first they were timid, hoping Jesus wasn’t going to draw attention to them. Each felt a pain in their heart as they began to think of all the times they let Jesus down. For a minute they began to give serious thought to the prophecies Jesus was telling them about. Could they be about Him? Will He have to suffer such horrible things? As they began to think of how these things could be avoided, Jesus sat down and motioned for a small child to come to Him. The little boy ran to Jesus with joy. The disciples could see a sense of pride in the fact Jesus called him. They looked at his eyes. Big round, dark eyes anyone could quickly fall in love with. Looking into the child’s eyes reminded some of the disciples of the future they saw in the eyes of their own child. They also remembered the love, suddenly seeing this is what Jesus wanted them to understand as He told them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”
A little child naturally relies on parents for food, clothing, love and care. They are trusting, loyal, dedicated and only know how to return unconditional love. Children have nothing to give in return than their love. There is a common and natural bond between children and their parents, a mutual sense of pride. No matter what race, creed, religion, or social status a parent comes from, they all want a better life for their children than the life they led. Parents, especially mothers are gifted with a natural tendency to protect their children from harm and sin. They want to give the best to their children, often more than they are capable of providing. Children love them whether they receive riches of the world, or nothing more than time. Love between parents and children cannot be expressed on paper. It cannot be created in a laboratory, marketed in a package, taught in a classroom or book. It must be experienced, lived, loved, cherished, nourished, cultivated, protected, and treasured.
The disciples were beginning to see the obvious connection Jesus was teaching. The connection between Him and His Father was the same as the disciples and their children, wives, fathers and mothers. They began to see how love for family was always meant to be extended beyond the family circle. They not only had to learn to love Jesus more than the people in this world they loved, that love had to extended to His Father in Heaven. By the way Jesus was holding the child, they could see the love from the child was being returned. They began feeling a warmth and peace deep within their hearts they never felt before. Jesus paused again, looking at each face, reading their hearts through eyes that showed the Spirit was working within each one, bringing to mind a number of lessons they experienced over the past weeks. Jesus held the child closer as the warmth spread throughout the group. God was very near.
No one knows why. Maybe it was because John was still convinced he was the greatest. Maybe he turned the great love he felt for Jesus into an excuse to place himself above the others. John broke the serenity of the moment by asking Jesus a question. “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” John could tell he said something wrong when we saw the look on Jesus’ face change. Jesus also let the little child go. Jesus still paused after the child ran to his mother’s side. He looked down at the ground, wondering how the disciples missed one of the most important lessons. They crossed the lake time after time for a reason. Jesus began preaching near John’s home town. From there they traveled across the lake where Jesus cast thousands of demons out of a single man into a herd of pigs. After the pigs drowned, the pig herders asked Jesus to leave. Crossing the lake and returning near John’s home, they were met a rich young ruler from the synagogue. Jesus went to his home where He raised his little girl back to life. They saw Jesus rejected in His own home town. When they crossed the lake again, they saw Jesus feed over 4000 people from five loaves of bread and two fish. Crossing back over the lake the disciples were attacked by Pharisees for not washing their hands before eating. Jesus tried turning them back to the scriptures for an answer. Did they bother to look? Then Jesus traveled to Tyre, where a woman, a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia pleaded for her daughter. Jesus cast a demon out of her little girl.
Jesus looked down at the dust on the ground wondering if any of the disciples understood the lesson He was teaching. Hearing John’s question showed Jesus it was going to take more time for them to see He treated everyone alike. Jesus did not put one value on a Jew, another on a Gentile. Jesus never asked a person’s political or religious views before helping them. Jesus never held anyone to the doctrines of His time. Jesus just helped them, prayed, and left them in the capable hands of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew John would one day understand as He answered. “Don’t stop him! No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me.” One day John would look up and see the answer.
Will the disciples learn to love and trust Jesus like a little child looks up to their parents? What impressed you in this lesson? Could you see the little child sitting in Jesus’ lap, looking out at the disciples? Do you think the little child wanted to grow up to be like the disciples, or do you think the child set his heart on growing up to be like Jesus?