PassageIn this passage Jesus secretly brings his disciples somewhere where he can teach them without anyone else following; the implication (to me) being that he doesn’t want to get interrupted. Once again he tells them, plainly, that he is going to be killed, and that he is then going to rise from the dead three days later. But once again they do not understand what he is saying, and are afraid to press him for details.
They move on, and on the way the disciples argue about who is the greatest. When they reach their destination Jesus asks them what they had been arguing about, but they keep quiet, seemingly ashamed to have been arguing about such a matter. Jesus tells them that anyone who wants to be first “must be the very last, and the servant of all” (verse 35 (ESV)), and then brings a child into their midst and tells them that anyone who welcomes a child in his name welcomes him—and, further, that anyone who welcomes Jesus isn’t just welcoming Jesus but also welcoming the Father.
ThoughtsIt seems so odd to read that the disciples weren’t able to understand Jesus when he was talking to them so plainly, but, as I’m sure I’ve written before, if the Holy Spirit isn’t going to help them to understand such things it’s quite understandable that they wouldn’t. Also, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that sometimes we are all prone to this type of thinking; “It sounds like he said such-and-such, but surely he couldn’t have meant that. He must be speaking metaphorically or something.”
I’m not actually quite sure why the people who put the English Standard Version bible together chose to delineate this section as they did, it seems to be two separate stories which are only loosely connected. First Jesus predicts his death, and then He tells the disciples about how to be great. They are connected, but no more so than they are also connected with the next passage in verses 38–41 and the passage after that in verses 42–50. So I’m not sure why they divided it the way that they did.
As for how to be “great,” the answer is quite simple: don’t try to be great. Serve others, consider their needs more important than your own, welcome people with open arms. These are the types of things that God rewards as greatness. Why? Because when we live in such ways He gets the glory instead of us. That’s as it should be.