“And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it” (Mark 9:30).
For the most part, the Lord’s public ministry was over. Now Calvary was in view. In these few verses of our study we will see that the disciples still did not understand the reason why Christ came, and even when they thought they did, they thought along fleshly lines.
The Lord’s Passion
“For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:31-32).
Here the Lord speaks very plainly regarding His trial, death and resurrection, but the disciples could not grasp what He said. They were too afraid to question Him about this because their minds were filled with false notions about the Messiah’s reign on the earth. They were still holding onto the belief that the kingdom was going to be immediately restored to Israel. This mistaken idea was blocking out the truth of what the Lord was saying. Those who cling to false doctrine fail to understand the plain and simple truth of Scripture when it is presented to them.
Continuously Jesus brought before His disciples the necessity of His death, for it is the reason why He came into the world. If a man denies the need of Christ’s blood then he can not be saved. How many in ecclesiastical positions and amongst the cults fail to understand this foundational truth?
The Lust for Pre-eminence
“And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest” (Mark 9:33-34).
The disciples, instead of meditating upon the significance of Christ’s sacrificial death, were debating who would get the greatest position in the Messiah’s Kingdom. They were bypassing the cross to advance to the crown. Who were these men? Fishermen, tax-collectors, and most of all sinners, yet they were overcome with the lust for supremacy and pre-eminence! No doubt they discussed who had the right to the highest position next to Jesus.
This lust for pre-eminence has been a snare throughout the church age. Men who had little understanding of Christ fought, bargained and tricked their way into man-made positions. Not content with the God-given position of pastor, they wanted to be the supreme pontiff (pope). Why? The commonest sin in man is pride, for he always thinks better of himself than he ought. Pride prevents repentance, keeps a man back from Christ, and fits his soul for destruction. Few people, and especially those in religious garb, are clothed with humility. The prophet was correct when he wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
The Last Place
“And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
“Last” is the last thing on anyone’s mind in most situations today. We do not want to be the last to receive good things, but are content to be at the back of the queue when sickness and death are calling. The world’s idea of greatness is supremacy, but for the Christian it ought to be servanthood. It is not what the world thinks of us that matters anyway, instead it is how Christ sees us. The humblest of His servants is the greatest saint in His eyes.
We have to search our souls and eradicate the sins of self-pleasing and self-indulgence and replace them with self-sacrifice and selflessness.
The Little Person
“And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me” (Mark 9:36-37).
To illustrate His teaching Jesus took a child in His arms. We must not ignore an obvious message here. It is though He was asking, “Who is closest to me now?” It was not those who thought they had the right to a glorified position, but a little child, the smallest person there. They had to be servants even to little children if they were going to be accepted into the Kingdom of God. The little children belong to Him, so if they reject them, they reject Christ. “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Those who refuse to love and serve children have no place in Heaven, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
The child was also an object lesson to show the disciples that to be great they would have to be teachable and trusting as a child. “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4). Did this teaching dispel their desire for the pre-eminence? We shall see in Mark 10 that they still clung to pride and self-importance.
Jesus has not called us to a life of luxury and riches, and nor does He honour popes, cardinals, archbishops and bishops, instead all of His followers are made up of those who seek nothing for themselves other than to walk in humility and service. The work He has called us to will be hard and often discouraging. The world will regard us as losers, but the Lord will honour us as “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).