Mark: Jesus Teaches on Pride and Position

Read: Mark 9:30-37

The title of this passage is “Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time,” does indeed include the explanation that Jesus will be delivered into the hands of men, but this isn’t the main point of the text. The concern here centers on pride and position.

To begin with, Jesus continues to show this select group of men that He cares about them specifically, that He wants them to understand more than anyone else. From my pious position I point my finger at them and slowly shake it back and forth. Couldn’t they see that The Messiah was pouring into them? Here He goes again, taking them aside, away from the crowds, speaking directly to them.

Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. Mark 9:30-31

I’m not sure why, but the thought occurred to me this morning, how old were the disciples? We know Jesus was about 30 at the beginning of His public ministry. Jewish tradition and historic culture would suggest it would be awkward for the disciples to be older than Jesus. If those observations are accurate, our incredibly young Messiah was teaching a bunch of 20-somethings.

It seems irrelevant until we consider they are talking amongst themselves as if Jesus doesn’t know or somehow is in the dark about their conversations.

“What were you arguing about on the road?” Mark 9:33

This reminds me of Genesis 3:9, “Where are you?” (as if God didn’t know). It’s about being honest. As parents, how many times have we asked the rhetorical question of one of our children? We know who stole the cookies from the jar, as crumbs fall from her lap, that’s not the point. Will you admit you helped yourself to cookies without asking? Will you confess? A teachable moment for our children and much more so for the disciples.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35

Anyone in a leadership position knows this verse. The best way to get your underlings to do something for you is explain that they must be a servant to lead. I’m sure by now they’ve heard the lesson many times in various ways, but given their maneuvering for position at the head of the table, Jesus sits them down and explains it once again, this time using a mere child as an example.

The imagery of Jesus gently holding the child and talking with His disciples has been the subject of many wonderful paintings. I love that Jesus would teach so kindly when it seems like He should have opened up Proverbs 13:24 and delivered some discipline! That’s been my go-to verse far too often!

But here’s the real point, Jesus includes Himself as one who must be servant of all. I’m convinced the disciples didn’t get this. Their young 30-something master was teaching them about leadership and in just a few more weeks, Jesus would show them the lesson by allowing himself to be subjected to human authority.

This may not be news to those of us who have known Jesus for years, but this kind of humility is far from normal in the world where the climb to the boardroom seems to be through people far too often.

The disciples didn’t hear the lesson about Jesus’ pending arrest, mock-trial, brutal beating, death, and resurrection because they were too focused on figuring out who gets to stand on the left or right of their leader. Sad. I wonder if this happens in churches today.


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This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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