A Weekly Bible Reading for Bridge Builders
Reading – Greatness and Servanthood (Mark 9:33-50)
During his ministry in Galilee Jesus lived in Capernaum (Mt.4:13), probably in the house belonging to Peter and Andrew (Mk.1:29) and in this passage we witness the small talk and speculations people indulge in on their way home after a busy time. The subject under discussion had been who was the greatest among the disciples. Jesus knew this but still asked the question, “What were you arguing about on the road?” In this way he invited discussion and created a teaching opportunity. How often do we ask questions as we witness? Or do we rush in to tell the other person how we see things? Questions serve to demonstrate our interest and not just our ignorance and can create all sorts of opportunities to discuss the kingdom of God.
Jesus answered this burning question emphasising three things essential to discipleship:
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all”
A little child illustrates well how a disciple’s attitude should be in their role as servant. A child is the least consequential member of any society, totally dependent on adults for everything and incapable of bringing acclaim or granting great position to anyone. Yet Jesus’ concern for “little ones” seemed paramount because they were so dependent and vulnerable. To serve the weak and those least able to offer reward is the mark of a true servant of God.
“Whoever is for us is not against us”
Our human nature causes us all-too-easily to divide into parties and choose loyalties according to our own flawed standards. Of course there are absolutes of right and wrong, both in conduct and in doctrine, and we are called to repent of the sin in our lives and to combat error but it is wrong to look at the good that people do and disapprove just because they don’t go by our name (Baptist, Pentecostal, etc), or agree with us on every point of doctrine (charismatic, cessationist, Calvinist, Arminian, etc). There are those in this world who counterfeit the truths of God and present an entirely different Jesus to that found in the Bible but there are many who do great good in His true name and we recognise and pray for them because in this way the kingdom of God advances.
“If your hand causes you to sin cut it off”
As disciples we are not called simply to be saved and gain some great reward in the great by-and-by. We are called to be salt and light to others in this world and sinning or causing sin brings darkness and makes us ineffectual as witnesses. Jesus’ words here are sobering in our age where so much of the world has entered into the church:
Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other”
How often are we the only barrier between the sinner and their Savour? As we witness we need to be servants to those to whom we speak and not judges. We need to care about the least among them as much as we might the prominent people we may meet. We need to celebrate the good done by others not of our party but who are true followers of Jesus in order to show the lost that in Jesus’ kingdom there is harmony, or at least a real striving for harmony and goodwill that is natural and not imposed. We must remember that he who would be greatest must be servant of all and that includes all who are lost in this world and in need of a Saviour. We must be prepared to cut off everything from our lives that hinders and that must include the way we think of others, speak to others and live before the world.