Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Greatest of Them All?

June 12, 2016

A reminder to readers: We’re in the thick of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will continue to cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.

Mark 9:33-37

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”


The Bible is not afraid to share with us even the more unseemly moments in the lives of the disciples. In today’s passage we read about the disciples arguing with one another over which of them was the greatest. When the disciples got back to Capernaum, Jesus sat them down and said, “what were you arguing about on the road?”

The disciples sat there and squirmed in their seats with embarrassment, because they knew that such an argument would not have pleased Jesus. They remained silent. Jesus then took a child and held the child in his arms and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” One of the dangers we all face is the thirst for status. If you are a pastor, this is often tied to the size of your church. For others, it might be the size of your salary, or the house you live in. There are so many ways we compare ourselves with others. This is a trap which so many of us can easily fall into.

Did you know that the whole Christian life is not about gaining power, but about relinquishing it? It is about being powerless. It is about being a servant. It is about putting yourself at the disposal of the kingdom. This is also where we have to remember the lesson from the cross. We wrongly understand the incarnation and the cross as Jesus laying aside his glory or putting his deity in some kind of stasis.

The cross is not the place where Jesus forfeits his glory and majesty, but rather, it is the exercise of it. The manifestation of God’s glory in lowliness and in humility. The glory of God must be seen not only by looking upward at his exalted enthronement and power, but also by looking downward at his humility, lowliness, servanthood and willingness to suffer for our sins. Remember that great insight of Isaiah: “I dwell on a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit” (Isaiah 57:15). Isaiah’s “two places” (high place and lowly place) are finally seen in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus, we finally see God’s full glory. It is a glory which encompasses both Jesus’ enthronement at the right hand of the Father, as well as his humility whereby he becomes obedient to death, even death on a cross. The whole path of the Christian life must pass through the pathway of servanthood. It is the path of child-like faith. It is the path of powerlessness. Are you on this path?


1. What does it really mean to “take up your cross” and follow Jesus?
2. What may God be calling you to sacrifice or lay down for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ?


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The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.

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