No. 02. "What Were You Arguing About?"

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Bothwell & Clachan

Sept 24, 2006

Mark 9:30-37

Message Series (A) - JESUS’ CURIOUS QUESTIONS FOR CONFUSED FOLLOWERS: Message No. 2. “What Were You Arguing About?” Mark 9:30-37

A. Setting the stage for the Jesus Farewell Tour. Mark 9:30-32

1. The Long Trip Home

  • Just had the Transfiguration possibly at Mt. Hermon. Mt Hermon, which is over 9,000 feet (2,743.2 meters) high and lies about 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) to the northeast of Caesarea Philippi. Mt Hermon is indeed a high mountain and has the additional advantage of being located near Caesarea Philippi. From the Top of country at foot of Mt Hermon at Ceasarrea Phillippi. Then travel down to Caperneum. By the Lake of Galilee
  • Mark 9:30 passed through Galilee. Jesus' public ministry in and around Galilee was completed (see note on Mark 7:24), and he was now on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die (see Mark 10:32-34). As he had been doing for several months, Jesus continued to focus his teaching ministry on the Twelve (Mark9:31).

2. Baffling Thoughts: What did Jesus mean by “betrayed?”

Mark 9:31 At the height of his popularity, as throngs of people were following him, Jesus began to talk about his suffering and death. Such talk baffled his disciples, whose image of a Messiah included no such dark notions. (When reality finally hit, they would all desert him and flee Mark 14:50.) Although Jesus made a point of mentioning his resurrection whenever he talked about his death, the disciples grasped neither concept—until he had died and then come back.

3. Who would are the "they" who will kill Jesus?

Mark 9:31 betrayed into hands of humanity. The betrayal is literally, "into the hands of humanity" (anthropos). "Humanity," I believe, then becomes the subject of the next verb -- "they will kill him." It is not the Jewish authorities nor the Gentiles who kill Jesus, but all humanity. As Williamson (Mark Interpretation) writes about this verse: "Jesus must suffer at the hands of representatives of the whole human race.... Ironically, all humankind is implicated in the death of the one who came to die for all. 'Were you there when they crucified my Lord?' is a question for every person in every time and place" [p. 168] Brian P. Stoffregen

4. Dumb and dumber

After Jesus was teaching his disciples and was saying to them (Mark 9:31, imperfect verbs = continuous action in the past). The disciples continued to not understand (agnoeo) the word (rhema) and continued to be afraid to ask him (Mark 9:32, imperfect verbs again).

The implication I get from these imperfect verbs is that Jesus kept on trying to teach them about the passion/resurrection, and the disciples just don't get it.

Didn’t understand – so began to fight about something thay could get their minds around. Easy for us to say?

B. INTERMISSION: “Jesus “executive” committee.”

  • Prime Minister assembling a new cabinet.
  • Judas role?

Who shall be greatest? The selection of Peter, James, and John for exceptional association with Christ; the primacy of Peter suggested by the words of their Master on a certain occasion; and the spirit of the sons of Zebedee, shown in the request made by their mother, a little later, on their behalf (Mark 10:35–41), were circumstances that soon attracted the attention of the others, and gave rise to discussion as to relative superiority. In dealing with this unseemly dispute, our Saviour showed—

C. AT Capernaum. Mark 9:33-37

  • See notes on Mark 1:21; Mt 4:13. the house. Probably the one belonging to Peter and Andrew (see Mark 1:29).
  • Jesus evidently had been walking in front of His disciples as they proceeded towards Capernaum
  • Rank and status were issues in early Judaism. It was not to be so among Jesus' followers.

1. What does it mean "to be better?”

What does it mean "to be better" than another? We can test some ways of being "better." A footrace can determine the better runner. A test can determine who knows more or can do more. Contests are held to determine the better boxer, wrestler, or martial arts specialist. Grades are given in school that determine the better students. The list could go on and on, but does doing something better than another person make one better than another? Unfortunately we often say or think that. We win a contest, so we think, I'm better than those others. Or, which is much more common, we don't win the contest, so we think, "Since I didn't win, I must be a terrible person. I'm no good."

2. Too embarrassed to answer

  • Mark 9:34 The disciples, caught up in their constant struggle for personal success, were embarrassed to answer Jesus’ question. It is always painful to compare our motives with Christ’s. It is not wrong for believers to be industrious or ambitious. But when ambition pushes obedience and service to one side, it becomes sin. Pride or insecurity can cause us to overvalue position and prestige. In God’s kingdom, such motives are destructive. The only safe ambition is directed toward Christ’s kingdom, not our own advancement.
  • Actually, this is the second time in our text that they are silent. In Mark 9:32, they were too afraid to ask Jesus about the meaning of his teaching. They seem to follow a motto I heard many, many years ago: "It is better to remain silent and appear like a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."
  • We might also assume (a dangerous thing to do) that because each disciple was concerned about his own greatness, none of them wanted to let the others know that he didn't understand. No one was willing to raise his hand and say, "I don't understand, Jesus." That could lead to ridicule from the others. That could lead to being considered "the dumb disciple." Actually, they all were dumb.

3. It’s All about Me

Many years ago, this bit of gossip was printed in a London newspaper about a famous painter and an equally famous writer: "James McNeil Whistler and Oscar Wilde were seen yesterday at Brighton talking, as usual, about themselves."

When Whistler saw that little tidbit of gossip in the newspaper, he clipped it out and sent it to Oscar Wilde with a note that said, "I wish these reporters would be more accurate. If you remember, Oscar, we were talking about me."

Oscar Wilde replied in a telegram that said, "It is true, Jimmy, we were talking about you but I was thinking of myself." Neither of these colorful men showed any embarrassment over their egocentric conversation.

But the disciples were embarrassed when Jesus asked them what they had been talking about as they journeyed to Capernum, for they had been talking about which of them was the greatest. King Duncan, Collected Sermons,

4. So You Want First Place?

  • Jesus never fights “fair.” He always turns the tables with a non sequitur. Enigmatic teachings various sayings in Mk 9:33–50, which represent a dramatic reversal of human values in all ages. This is a complete reversal of worldly values.
    • Powerful weakness
    • You want to save your life? Then give it away.
    • You want to be first? OK then, try to be last.
    • While earlier "taking up your cross" meant "losing your life for my sake and the gospel's," here the issue is greatness. The contrast between "God's things" and "human things" can be understood in terms of status: anyone wishing to be first must be last, and servant of all. The servant here is a diakonos, one who waits on tables. The disciples do not think of themselves as waiters. They dream, as do ordinary partisans of a powerful leader, of position and rank. Divine standards run headlong into conventional measures. [p. 133]

D. The End

1. Jesus Symbolic Act Mark 9:36–37

Jesus sat down and, as if they were children, called his disciples to gather around him. In much the same way as the ancient prophets, Jesus taught not only by his words but also by symbolic actions. His use of the child here is an acted parable, a dramatized illustration.

  • Jesus uses a pun. In Aramaic the word for "child" and "servant" is the same. When it is recognized that children in antiquity were treated with gross disrespect, Jesus' insistence on this role reversal is striking: Even the most insignificant among you is to be treated with the greatest honor!

The context concerns the acceptance of a fellow believer on the basis of their relationship with Christ, rather than their status/rank.

2. The power of this world

Father Gerry Pierse writes: The power of this world is the power of empire, of coercion. Can I put enough physical, economic or social pressure on this person or situation to make things go my way? This is seen in the bully in the school yard, in the authoritarian parent in the home... in the boardrooms of corporations and in the negotiations between nations.

Jesus takes this pattern based on power and puts it standing on its head. The model of greatness in the kingdom of God is the powerless child. The child has no degrees, wealth, achievements - which we seek to make us "somebody" great, but which, in fact, make us rivals, competing and jealous of one another. (by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R. Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life.)

  • This was a new approach in a society where children were usually treated as second-class citizens. It is important not only to treat children well, but also to teach them about Jesus. Children’s ministries should never be regarded as less important than those for adults. Here and in Matt 18:5 and Luke 9:48 the child represents any helpless person but especially a humble fellow believer whom the true disciple is to receive. To “welcome” or “receive” (RSV, NASB, NEB, REB) means to be concerned about, to care for, to show kindness to. To do so in the name of Jesus means to do as he would do, to do so for his sake, to do so as a Christian.

Greatness in the kingdom consists not of position but of ministry.

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