Saturday, October 31

Why I need to hear it again…

Scripture: Psalm 121, Mark 9-10

Mark 9:33–37  After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” 

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”


In these two chapters, one theme resurfaces three times: humility and service.

First time (9:33-37).  Just after Jesus announces that He will suffer and die in Jerusalem, the disciples argue with each other about who is the greatest.  Jesus flips their argument upside down: “Whoever wants to be first must take the last place and the servant of everyone else.”  Then He takes a child in His arms and tells them they must welcome children (whom they considered insignificant).  Did they get it?  Nope.

Second time (10:13-16).  Parents bring their children to Jesus to be blessed.  He takes them in his arms, but the disciples are upset that His time is being wasted, and try to shoo the parents off.  Obviously they’ve already forgotten what Jesus said about welcoming children.  He reminds them that the Kingdom of God belongs to children and the child-like.  

Third time (10:35-45).  Once again, after repeating that He was going to Jerusalem to die, the disciples display remarkable density!  James and John ask Him for the top spots in His new Kingdom, and the other 10 disciples are upset with them.  Jesus tells them again, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.”


What is it about us that we don’t get this and have to relearn it over and over?  Why did they (and we) need to hear it again and again?  Two things:

First, we are deeply enculturated.  Each of us is more profoundly influenced by our culture that we realize.  Their culture valued power and authority, not service and humility.  We face a similar challenge today.  Many Christians are shaped more by our culture than by Scripture or the Spirit.  Think for example of the Christians who supported slavery in the US for decades.  What are our blind spots today?  Where are we reflecting the values of our culture over the values of Jesus?  

Second, we are deeply flawed.  I heard someone say again yesterday that human beings are basically good.  I disagree.  I think we’re good and bad.  We’re made in the image of God (good) and we’re sinners (bad).  We love to overestimate our goodness and underestimate our brokenness.  The disciples were selfish—their arguments about greatness weren’t for the good of others but to promote their own selfish gain.  We’re selfish too and prone to the same errors.  Where is our selfishness blinding us to the ways of Jesus?

They needed to hear from Jesus over and over—so do we.  This is another reason why I try to read God’s word daily, reflect on it and apply it.  I need the reminder—over and over.

Prayer: Lord, show me where I’m being shaped by my culture rather than You, and where my sin and selfishness is misleading me.  Help me to get it!