Be first by being last?
When you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.
Many of us of us are familiar with that old saying, and most of us have tried it. From getting a teacher to “chase a rabbit” while covering a boring topic, to attempting to refocus the spotlight of scrutiny away from self onto someone else, we can all identify with wanting to change the subject.
In Mark 9, the apostles have been arguing about which of them is the greatest. In dealing with this ugly and divisive attitude, Jesus prescribes something both unexpected and counter intuitive: In verse 35, he states, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Taking a child in his arms – an example of the unimportant in first century culture – he adds, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me but Him who sent Me.”
He needs them to understand that they way they treat people – especially those regarded as unimportant – is also the way they are treating God.
The room is suddenly uncomfortable – and it’s at this point that John attempts to change the conversation. By disparaging a nameless outsider who has been casting out demons in the name of Jesus, John hopes Jesus will move on to a new “problem.”
As the master teacher, it’s not surprising Jesus doesn’t allow himself to be derailed. He demands, by employing hyperbole, that the apostles do anything and everything necessary to ensure that the ugly attitudes within them are corrected.
He concludes by encouraging them to be like salt “and be at peace with one another.”
So how will the apostles fix this? In a word, these leaders desperately need to learn humility.
For us today, I suspect a lack of humility often hinders us from reflecting Jesus in our lives. In light of all God has done for you, have you responded to him in genuine humility? If Jesus wanted to have a conversation with you about the way you are following him, would you want to change the conversation?
May the Lord bless each of us with humility!
Philip Goad is the minister at North Highlands Church of Christ in Russellville. He is married to Marla, and they have a daughter, Kayla Thorne, who is married to Josh. They also have a son, Preston, and one grandchild, Greyson Thorne.