We all want to be important. We want to feel like we matter. The world tells us that the more we can do and the more people who listen to us, the more valuable we will be. But Jesus says that life is different in the kingdom of God. In our Father’s household, greatness is found by humbling ourselves and joyfully letting God get the glory. We remember God’s great love for us in giving us His Son, and then that love flows out into serving others. For the Christian, the way up is down.
The Text (Mark 9:39-37)
33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
Background and Observations
• Remember that Capernaum was Jesus’ home base for His ministry operations. He has retreated here before getting ready to go to Jerusalem for His crucifixion. The house Jesus is staying in may have been Peter’s own home, and the child that Jesus calls may be Peter’s son.
• The disciples’ argument may have been prompted by the the fact that only Peter, James, and John got to see Jesus’ transfiguration. Meanwhile, the others had failed to cast out the demon from the mute boy. They took their eyes off Jesus and were comparing themselves to each other.
• If the disciples could fall into the temptation to seek personal glory in ministry, then we ordinary Christians definitely need to be on guard. Selfishness and pride can hurt our witness for Christ, our relationships with other Christians, and our walk with God.
• By “little children,” Jesus probably means humble believers following Him. By showing kindness, love, and acceptance to other Christians, we show our love for Jesus and for our heavenly Father. This humble “receiving” or loving of one another is the godly opposite of the worldly competition for power and glory.
Questions to Think About
1. Are there any things that you think you’re trying to “do for God” that you might really be doing to feel important or get noticed by others? It might be fine to keep doing those things but pray for God to give you the right motives (loving Him and others).
2. In what specific ways might you be able to humbly serve your family and friends this week?