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Mark 9;30–37 – Coming in Last
by Gary Sims
09/17/03
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The Gospels
Mark 9:30-37 – Coming in Last

Key Verses:(NRSV)

  • 31: “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” – Jesus is traveling alone with His disciples and He takes the opportunity to teach, for the second time, what lies ahead.

  • 32: “But they did not understand what He was saying and were afraid to ask Him.” – This was a subject they wanted to avoid.

  • 33: “…He asked them ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’” – Can you picture Jesus walking along the road in contemplation, taking in the scenery and reveling at God’s creation, while the disciples held back behind in small groups whispering and arguing among themselves.

  • 34: “But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.” – Busted! Absorbed with their own greatness, Jesus, with one small question, holds up a mirror and reveals the error of their thinking.

  • 35: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” – Jesus teaches that greatness comes only through a life of servanthood.

  • 37: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” – Children held no status in first century Jerusalem. They were barely held above the wild dogs with which they shared the streets. Jesus had reached to the bottom of the heap.
Points to Contemplate:
  • Do you think about your own death? Are there other uncomfortable topics of discussion that you choose to avoid? Do you shy away from discussions of politics, religion, and current events? Do you tend avoid learning too much detail of other people’s lives or becoming too close of a friend? Do you steer clear of ministry opportunities that involve exposing the “dirty laundry” of life? Does the avoidance of these topics adversely affect God’s ability to mold you into His image? Is it possible that uncomfortable topics and situations hold the greatest potential for your spiritual growth?

  • Are you focused on your own greatness? Is your prayer life focused on your needs and your worries? Is your decision-making process centered on you and how each moment will affect your life? In their discussions and plans for greatness weren’t the disciples merely trying to fit their lives into the kingdom framework that Jesus had outlined? Can you find yourself illustrated in this story? Are you trying to determine where you fit? Are you struggling with your purpose in life? Does this story illustrate that it is important to recognize first that it’s not about you? That life and everything we encounter within our lives, is about God and His purpose? In what ways can these verses help you shift your focus to God?

  • Are you a servant? Are you able to reach out to the lowest of the low and welcome them into God’s kingdom? Can you humbly serve, doing whatever it takes to lift others, for an entire lifetime without any recognition or gratitude? Can you sacrifice your self so that others may live? Isn’t that what servanthood is all about – lifting the world so everyone can experience salvation? Are you willing to become God’s hands in the lives of others so that they can experience Him through you? Are you willing to be last?

  • What does it mean to be a child of God? Does it infer innocence and naivety? Perhaps it means unspoiled, clean, or free from sin? In these verses Jesus chose a child as an example of having no station in life, no power or influence. Is this simply another illustration of the importance that the poor and weak have in God’s kingdom? Or does it also suggest that we are to come to Christ in the spirit of a child, leaving behind all of our worldly possessions and stations in life? That as we are adopted in His love, nothing of earthly importance matters to Him? Can you welcome others with that same love?
Promises of the Gospel:

As we go through life we tend to avoid uncomfortable topics, and instead, become immersed with issues concerning our own well-being. As with the disciples, our greatness, our role within God’s kingdom, can easily become our main concern. With this story Jesus teaches us how to prioritize our lives. Our purpose and role as Christians is not about us, it’s about God. We are to set everything thing aside and enter into a life of servanthood. When we reach out and welcome the powerless, when we think of the needs of others and not of ourselves, then we are welcoming God into our life and will be lifted up in His glory.

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