Greatness: in his name

jesus-and-child35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”

If the first teaching was troublesome, the next would have been downright shocking. In our time we have a different view of children. We hold children to be innocent and precious. This does not seem to have been the view of 1st century. In ancient culture, children had no status. They were subject to the authority of their fathers, viewed as little more than property. In Roman culture adults were adopted, not children. Consider St. Paul’s statement: “I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father.” (Gal 4:1-2) If this is said of the heir, can you imagine the attitude for children in general? Perkins [p. 637] writes: “… the child in antiquity was a non-person…Children should have been with the women, not hanging around the teacher and his students (cf. 10:13-16). To say that those who receive Jesus receive God does not constitute a problem. A person’s emissary was commonly understood to be like the one who sent him. But to insist that receiving a child might have some value for male disciples is almost inconceivable.” Continue reading

Greatness: servant

jesus-and-child35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”

The conversation in Capernaum is no longer addressed to “disciples” but to “the Twelve.” In the gospel of Mark, the Twelve (hoi dōdeka) are a group of disciples chosen by Jesus to be his special companions (Mark 3:14; 4:10; 11:11; 14:17). They were particularly instructed by Jesus (Mark 9:35; 10:32) and were sent by him to proclaim the coming of the kingdom and to cast out demons (Mark 3:14, 16; 6:7). While we naturally add the phrase “Apostles” to the text, the emphasis is not on the 12 people in charge after the Resurrection, but rather the restoration of Israel as the people of God. The number was symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30; Rev 21:12–14) and pointed to the eschatological nature of Jesus’ mission. [AYBD 670] We can see this clearly in the Matthean account: 27 Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:27–28) Continue reading

Greatness: discussing

jesus-and-childBut following the second prediction of the passion there seems to be a non-sequitur in process: 33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.

Again the disciples remain silent. Before they were afraid to ask Jesus about the meaning of his teaching. Here they think they are trying to avoid embarrassment. If before they worried that Jesus would condemn them for not understanding his teaching, now, are they worried that he will condemn them for desiring and talking about greatness? They do not yet fathom Jesus as a gracious savior. Continue reading

Greatness: misunderstanding

jesus-and-child30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.

In the scene immediately preceding our Gospel, the disciples experienced an inability to cast out a demon from a young child – a great change from their initial missionary experience. They are perplexed and do not understand. While Jesus’ answer is simple (v.29), it is a teaching moment for the disciples – more prayer is needed. The disciples are equipped with more witness that the average person Jesus encounters in this Galilean ministry, still they are perplexed about the meta-narrative that is the story of Jesus. Continue reading

Greatness: context

jesus-and-child30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. 33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. 35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:30–37 Continue reading

Greatness: in the eyes of God

jesus-and-child35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”

If the first teaching was troublesome, the next would have been downright shocking. In our time we have a different view of children. We hold children to be innocent and precious. This does not seem to have been the view of 1st century. In ancient culture, children had no status. They were subject to the authority of their fathers, viewed as little more than property. In Roman culture adults were adopted, not children. Consider St. Paul’s statement: “I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father.” (Gal 4:1-2) If this is said of the heir, can you imagine the attitude for children in general? Perkins [p. 637] writes: “… the child in antiquity was a non-person…Children should have been with the women, not hanging around the teacher and his students (cf. 10:13-16). To say that those who receive Jesus receive God does not constitute a problem. A person’s emissary was commonly understood to be like the one who sent him. But to insist that receiving a child might have some value for male disciples is almost inconceivable.” Continue reading

Greatness: service

jesus-and-child35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”

The conversation in Capernaum is no longer addressed to “disciples” but to “the Twelve.” In the gospel of Mark, the Twelve (hoi dōdeka) are a group of disciples chosen by Jesus to be his special companions (Mark 3:14; 4:10; 11:11; 14:17). They were particularly instructed by Jesus (Mark 9:35; 10:32) and were sent by him to proclaim the coming of the kingdom and to cast out demons (Mark 3:14, 16; 6:7). While we naturally add the phrase “Apostles” to the text, the emphasis is not on the 12 people in charge after the Resurrection, but rather the restoration of Israel as the people of God. The number was symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30; Rev 21:12–14) and pointed to the eschatological nature of Jesus’ mission. [AYBD 670] We can see this clearly in the Matthean account: 27 Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:27–28) Continue reading

Greatness: differences

jesus-and-childBut following the second prediction of the passion there seems to be a non-sequitur in process: 33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.

Again the disciples remain silent. Before they were afraid to ask Jesus about the meaning of his teaching. Here they think they are trying to avoid embarrassment. If before they worried that Jesus would condemn them for not understanding his teaching, now, are they worried that he will condemn them for desiring and talking about greatness? They do not yet fathom Jesus as a gracious savior. Continue reading

Greatness: understanding

jesus-and-child30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.

In the scene immediately preceding our Gospel, the disciples experienced an inability to cast out a demon from a young child – a great change from their initial missionary experience. They are perplexed and do not understand. While Jesus’ answer is simple (v.29), it is a teaching moment for the disciples – more prayer is needed. The disciples are equipped with more witness that the average person Jesus encounters in this Galilean ministry, still they are perplexed about the meta-narrative that is the story of Jesus. Continue reading

Meaning of greatness: context

jesus-and-child30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. 33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. 35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:30–37 Continue reading