As we continue to navigate our way through the Gospel of Mark, the urgency we see in Jesus to help his disciples understand who He is and what He is calling them to do rises to the top. Today we see again Jesus’ desire to take them aside and share with them the betrayal that was approaching Him and what the disciples should expect to happen. Yet, they still did not understand. Take a moment to read today’s passage.
Jesus takes His disciples aside in private to speak to them about His upcoming death and resurrection. The disciples don’t understand and yet don’t ask Jesus to explain it. Instead, they launch into a discussion about who was the greatest. Jesus calls the twelve disciples closer to Him and shockingly tells them that the one who is to be the greatest is to be last of all. Earl Lavender offers this picture from the book Mark: Jesus is God’s Son.
“Can you imagine how puzzled they must have been when Jesus told them that the prominence they sought could only be found by being a servant of all? He then took a child as an example of how to be close to Jesus. ‘Show attention to this child and you will be embracing me and the one who sent me.” What could all this mean? It was radically different than anything they had considered (89).”
As if ignoring this information Jesus gives on being a servant, John seemingly tries to turn the conversation towards the disciples actions to stop others around them who are casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Jesus stays the course and does not let this distraction take away from the point He is trying to make…Do not worry about what other people are doing or saying. Just follow and obey me. Again Lavender pulls these thoughts together.
“The lesson for us in these episodes is clear: when we allow ourselves to think as the world thinks, we exclude ourselves from the activity and purposes of God. Are we more concerned about others who are not one of our group using the name of Jesus than faithfully living in his power and purpose? Do we ignore those Jesus would have us serve in order to serve those who benefit us? Do we disregard the danger of sin to satisfy the appetites of our bodies? Though it appears we are walking with Jesus and are proud to call ourselves Christian, if we are behaving like the disciples did in this reading, we are working against the kingdom (89).”
Paul also addressed this same issue when he was in prison.
“To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed.” Philippians 1:15-18
Satan does not care which way we turn as long as it is away from God’s purpose for our lives or the furtherance of God’s kingdom. That is why the last verses of today’s passage give such a simple, yet pointed warning for our lives. Three warnings relate to our own personal lives and one relates to our role in the body of believers
- Be careful little hands what you do (Mark 9:43-44)
- Be careful little feet where you go (Mark 9:45-46)
- Be careful little eyes what you see (Mark 9:47-48)
- Have salt among yourselves and be at peace with one another (Mark 9:49b)
The Lectio Divina Bible Studies, Listening for God Through Mark, summarizes this reminder of our fleshly tendency towards sin and away from God.
“Also in this passage, we learn to be honest about our own sinfulness. Jesus understands how we are prone to rationalize our sin, making ourselves not look so bad. His teaching gives us the ability to identify our sin and the courage to avoid it. No pleasure on earth competes with the peace and wholeness of living rightly before the Lord. Jesus reorients our worldview, bringing the kingdom of heaven into focus while dimming the lights of the kingdom of this world (51-52).”
Lord, help me to do, go, and see what you want me to do, go, and see. Help me to not do it in my own strength or power, but to walk in the identity you give me as a child of God. Help me to not seek after a position of glory, but yield and reflect Your glory for the furtherance of Your kingdom and Your righteousness in my own life and those around me.