Jesus and His companions were making their way along a secondary road to Capharnaum. They avoided the main route because He wanted to have a chance to converse privately with His closest friends. His message was a hard one to deliver but even more difficult to accept. He had good news and bad news. He was going to be executed but in three days He would come back to life.
Mark, who got most of his material from Peter, tells us that they made no comment and asked no questions. They were confused and frightened by His words and chose to ignore them...hoping to be able to cherish some doubt as to their meaning.
For Jesus to be put to death was nonsense. He had more than once proved Himself to be invincible. Even the sea had failed to claim Him...and had He not subdued those winds and waves with little more than a glance? Death was unthinkable and so, of course, was rising from the dead, whatever that might mean. He was the future King of Israel and they were His senior staff! Those were the facts and that was that!
Instinctively they quickened their pace and pulled ahead of Him. He didn't mind dropping behind...being alone was a luxury for Him...but He was not so far behind that He could not pick up snatches of their animated conversation.
"I am senior to all of you"..."But I am the eldest"..."He called me before He called you, surely that counts for something"..."He trusts me with the common purse" ...And so the dialogue went on until they reached the outskirts of Capharnaum and the house which had been made available to them. It was probably Peter's house.
Jesus then asked them what had been the subject of their argument. The question embarrassed them. They didn't answer Him.
They were so unrealistic! All the signs were there. Jesus was on a collision course with the authorities. Sooner or later they would make a decisive move. He wanted His followers to understand why He would not resist. But Peter and the others were off in a fantasyland. They were dreaming of a kingdom in which Jesus would be the miracle-working king and they the great ones of His court. He was talking about loving service. They were talking about position and power.
A little child crossed the room. It may have been Peter's own child. Jesus drew the child to Him. "Before you even begin to understand where I am coming from, you must become like this child."
Now this really deflated them! In the Greco-Roman world of Jesus and Peter, a child had absolutely no rights and less status. This was hardly a situation in keeping with their ambitions.
Once again Jesus was demonstrating that the ways and thoughts of God are not the same as those of man. True greatness, He explained, is to be found in giving yourself in personal service to one from whom you can expect nothing in return and most challenging of all, doing so without thinking of yourself as being superior.
Most of us give to charities. Perhaps we do some volunteer work; even come into direct contact with the needy or the sick. But don't we have a tendency to feel a little superior as we do so?
How often does an opportunity to serve become a showcase in which to proudly display what we perceive as the quality of our discipleship? How easily we fall into the trap of displaying our good works as trophies accumulated to prove our status.
Let us pray for each other that, no matter who or what we are, we become as little children...not only aware of our smallness but also happy with it.