Mark 9:30-37Jesus and his disciples went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."
The elephant in the room
Jesus tells his disciples he will soon be betrayed, killed and rise from the dead after three days. The disciples ask Jesus no questions because they were afraid to. Really. So, why were they afraid to ask any questions. It might have been because they didn't want to look dumb in front of Jesus and the others. I think that the major reason was not so much because they were afraid to ask but that they didn't want to hear the answer. That is very human.
Jesus exposed the elephant in the room. He had mentioned all of this before. He would be persecuted and die and rise again. It just made them uncomfortable and they didn't want to talk about it. We have all been there. We have all had our own elephants in our lives. It may be a drinking problem, an unwanted pregnancy, an illness, or maybe a disastrous relationship with a spouse or an employer. Because they are uncomfortable subjects we push thoughts aside and talk about something else, anything else. We want to put on blinders and keep going forward.
We are better at those kinds of discussions than we were fifty years ago. It had been almost fifty years since I had seen a good friend from high school. We talked over a glass of wine about those times and the subject drifted into our family lives back then. He didn't know that my life had been chaos and I didn't know that his life had been troubling as well. We got into some detail about these things and I think we were both surprised to find out what was really going on in our lives. It was almost a rule back then that family problems were not brought up.
The disciples didn't want to talk about Jesus's betrayal and murder so they picked another topic. They chose an argument over which one of them was greatest. Now that was in their comfort zone.
Jesus sits them down and proceeds to straighten them out. He says, “whoever wants to be first will be last.” He is talking about the importance of living a life of humility. That is something we have heard many times. I don't think I need to say more.