Today’s texts contain three very well known stories from Jesus’ life: the transfiguration, the story of the demon the disciples could not drive out and the discussion about who was the greatest among the disciples.
We could have a lengthy discussion about all three of those accounts, and indeed all three have something to teach us. My greatest desire is to take some time with the transfiguration, but there is not the time to do the research required to do it justice.
I will make a comment about the discussion among the disciples about who is the greatest. In their time, position and prestige ruled the day. Someone’s value in society was often directly linked to their position in that society. A shepherd was low on the social scale, with a carpenter a bit above them, and a rabbi a bit above them and a priest a bit above them, I’m sure you get the picture. As students of a rabbi, Jesus’ disciples received some increased social status compared to their occupations prior to following Jesus. But even among the disciples of a religious leader, there was a pecking order; and it appeared that this pecking order had become a contentious point among them.
Jesus catches the conversation, which I’m sure they did not intend him to hear and decides that it is time for a lesson. I can just picture the disciples, muttering among themselves like some 4-year old and when Jesus says: “What’cha talking about?” they all quickly look at their feet and play in the dirt with the toes of their sandals. They don’t want to tell him.
What does Jesus teach them here? He teaches them the exact opposite of what they thought was right. Does Jesus do this to be contrary? No. He does it to address one of the inherent flaws in humanity, a flaw that is no doubt a result of sin in the garden of Eden. That flaw is selfishness, looking after one’s own interests instead of someone else’s; the flaw of pushing yourself to the forefront, even it if means pulling someone else back to accomplish it. There is always this striving for position and power.
Jesus takes that flaw, exposes it for what it is and tells them the truth of the matter: the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the one who puts him/herself last. Then he brings a child into their midst. This is significant, because children had not inherent value in Jewish society. They were valued because they were children, but they had no status, they did not contribute, they had no power. Yet Jesus teaches his disciples to welcome the child, to spend time with the child, to interact with the lowly.
So often I see selfishness and a quest for power in the church, so often I see people who think that a position earns them some privilege. Who are we kidding? There’s no power to be had in the church, apart from the power of God at work through the Holy Spirit. And the Bible teaches us over and over again that God gives that power to the humble, to the meek at heart, not to the one who like to throw their weight around. A servant heart earns you respect in God’s eyes and favour among people. We would be wise to keep that in mind.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Matthew 18