A reading from the gospel according to Mark 9:30-37
30 Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”
34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.
35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
36 Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
Good News: The greatest shall be the servant of all.
Jesus is the only Son of God who came down to earth to reunite the people with the Father. To achieve this purpose, He needed to be humble and obedient to the Father even if it entails untold suffering and death upon a cross. (Philippians 2:8) His apostles did not fully understand the meaning of a suffering servant and instead argued who among them is the greatest. So, He presented to them a child and asked them to be like this child.
Who then is the greatest? To Jesus, it is not the mightiest ruler, or the fastest athlete, nor the handsomest celebrity. It is not what humans consider it to be. It is quite the opposite.
If you want to be the first, be the last and the servant of all, Jesus explained and He lived by it. He could have been the mightiest general and he could have driven the Roman soldiers out from Palestine in the shortest possible time but He chose another way. He became the stone rejected by the builders and most of all, he chose to be the suffering servant. He chose to conquer the enemy with love, not with military equipment. For the enemy is not another human being but the unseen evil.
To be the greatest means to be full of love and to be humble and obedient like a child. Moreover, to be a loving person means to be welcoming of others especially the poor and oppressed – those vulnerable members of society. Therefore, whenever we think of our own importance, let us go out and serve our less important brothers and sisters. People may not notice us but God is smiling and showing a thumbs-up sign.
Sermon Outline and Commentary:
1. The Nature of Jesus as the Christ or the Messiah
The gospel passage is part of Jesus’ revelation of His identity as the Christ or Messiah who will suffer and be killed. His disciples could hardly understand why the Son of God should undergo such tragedy. Verse 32 says they were afraid to question Jesus. Most probably, they remember how He rebuked Peter and called him Satan for protesting His first pronouncement of His suffering and death (Mark 8:33). It could also be that like any other human being, they did not want to appear so confused or ignorant.
Verses 33 and 34 tell us that the disciples resorted to arguing among themselves. This is the obvious result when you refused to clarify things with the one who is knowledgeable.
2. The Nature of a Child as a model of Discipleship
a) Jesus took a child and placed it in the midst of the disciples who were indeed like little kids who lacked understanding and instead resorted to quarreling.
b) Jesus accepts us no matter ignorant we are. He is very patient with our lack of understanding.
c) Jesus wants us to embrace the curiosity of a child who always “wanted to know” and who is not afraid to ask the hard question.
d) Jesus teaches us to accept the little ones but looked down on them.
3. Who is the greatest?
a) In a world of “Me first” attitude, it is quite hard to accept that the greatest among us is the last or least or lowest and that he must be servant of all. Diakonos is the Greek word for servant and from which we get the word deacon.
b) The greatest must be like Jesus who humbled himself to become the servant of all.
c) There are some people in modern time who have chosen the most unlikely profession: to help the least in our society. Foremost was Mother Teresa. By giving charity work a human face, she became an inspiration to many people.