We come to the final sequence in Galilee. These several teachings tightly packed together create the closest thing to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount you will find in Mark’s Gospel.
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35
As they walked along the way, they were arguing about who was at the head of the class. Note: Unlike the other Synoptics, it does not single out James and John as the antagonists in this debate; instead, it uses the generic to force the reader to reflect upon their situation. Jesus asks about the content of their animated discussion on the road. The silence of the knuckleheads follows.
It’s as if they are not evolving but devolving in what he has taught and modeled. So out of the awkward silence, Jesus moves into teaching mode.
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
The world in which we live programs us to win. Class rank and high test scores get you into the “best” colleges (unless you cheat), and the best colleges get us the best jobs (unless you cheat). The best teams get to championships (unless you cheat), and the best workers move up the corporate ladder (unless you cheat). Nobody likes to be a loser.
We want to be the first table called to the buffet, and the first players picked for the team, elected class officer, achieve valedictorian, sit in front row seats, fly in first class, etc. We will even find a benefit in losing if it makes us first a la the NFL draft.
Jesus turns the world on its head; he tells the disciples that the servant is first. This will be illustrated in spades in the last chapters of Mark’s Gospel!
Turn our world’s upside down if it means we can serve alongside you!
I pray this in the name of the Suffering Servant. Amen!