"What are YOU arguing about on the WAY?"
As they travel through Galilee, Jesus works to be alone with his disciples. Jesus knows the time is short for him to change the hearts of his disciples. From here on out in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is on “the way” to Jerusalem and his death. He needs his close followers to fully understand the importance of his death and the life he expects of those who will follow after him – how to live in God’s Kingdom or life under God’s rule. He tells them rather plainly and for the second time about his impending and purposeful death and resurrection. They do not understand and are afraid to ask.
Jesus seems pretty clear so what do they not understand? Why are they afraid to ask when the last time Jesus spoke of his death Peter was quick to “rebuke” Jesus?
On the road to Capernaum, the disciples are arguing. They think Jesus cannot hear them. Yet Jesus, like God-the-Father, knows what is in people’s hearts let alone on their lips. When he confronts them, the disciples remain silent. I would imagine their heads cast down, eyes purposefully avoiding Jesus’ glance.
Though I assume it is obvious, why do the disciples not answer Jesus’ inquiry as to what they were “arguing about on the way?” Don’t miss that they are not simply “on the road.”
Jesus then offers one of the most difficult sayings to you and me as followers (Mark 10:35), “‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” He then has a young child stand amongst the disciples to be a visual object lesson taken from their social and cultural world. To welcome a child such as this is to welcome Jesus and that is to welcome God!
First, how might Jesus expect us to live out this Kingdom value or value in life ruled by God, of “the first being last and servant of all?”
Second, what point is Jesus making by inviting the young child to stand in their midst?
If I told you that in the Jewish and Roman worlds that Jesus inhabited, young children were held in very low esteem, even by their parents. They are insignificant, have no social status or rights and have little value to their family. So, little children are totally dependent on others and vulnerable to abuse. (Yes, I know this is troubling to our sensitive twenty-first century ears. You have to be careful, though, not to read our social norms and customs back into those of the first century Israel and the greater Roman world.) Finally,
Can you imagine what it looks like to “welcome one such child in Jesus name” in your life today?
I am very in touch with how much these words of Jesus grate against our human and cultural understanding of greatness. If we are honest, we ignore these words as much as possible. Even Christians understand greatness in vastly different, frankly vastly opposite, to how Jesus tells us that God sees greatness. Yet, here they are, right here in the Bible and on the lips of Messiah Jesus or Jesus the Christ – Jesus-the-King. We must really grapple and come to grips with these words of the King. As followers, we are also on the WAY.
How will you answer Jesus when he asks, “What are YOU arguing about on the WAY?” in your life, your thoughts, your beliefs and actions? (Yup, I know I have to answer this question for myself.)
See you Sunday.