What were you arguing about? (Hook)

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What were you arguing about?

Proverbs 31:10-end, James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a and Mark 9:30-37.  Week 16, Question Mark

Who or what was Chris from Australia, who lost 40kgs overnight?

Quiz question from last night – no arguing! Thank you to Stephen and Sue for a brilliant evening

Point 1

Jesus is in Capernaum. He sits down inside the house, indicating that he is the Rabbi or Teacher to listen to.

And he asks the disciples, ‘What were you arguing about on the way here?’

They have come back together from the north of Galilee, from a retreat on in the area of Mount Hermon, and are back in Peter’s house.

The 12 are silent. OOPS. They know that their conversations, debates, arguments are not something to be proud of. Probably, the argument was about who would be Jesus’ spokesman in the future, his key representative.

What irony!

Jesus has just spoken for the second time about his own death to come, his death that will bring spiritual life, but suffering and death. He has deliberately brought the disciples back from safety in the north towards Jerusalem. Where he will be handed over to be betrayed, by Judas, who is in the middle of the disciples group, and presumably listening to this. Jesus says he will be handed over, he will be killed, he will rise again.

And the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest among themselves!

They have not understood what Jesus is saying about his death. No such fate could come to the expected MESSIAH!

Tom Wright comments: ‘you might as well expect a footballer, planning the biggest game of the season, to explain to his friends that he was going to play with his legs tied together. Probably not many people believed that God would send a Messiah.

And nobody believed the Messiah would suffer and die.’  

So the disciples don’t get that message of Jesus at all. Death for Jesus does not make sense. They also simply don’t understand the message about a lifestyle of humility that Jesus is commending.

The letter of James, also read today, is the New Testament ‘Wisdom’ book.

James speaks of the wisdom from above, that is

Pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful and sincere

In contrast to human “wisdom” on earth that is about bitter envy, selfish ambition, leading to disorder and every evil practice. The desires inside us that lead to fights and quarrels.

It rings true, and makes sense as we read it alongside the Gospel for today.

Application point 1

The disciples do not understand Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps we don’t either? We talked about careful listening when I arrived in Hook. I hope that we are still trying to listen carefully to each other and to God.

We otherwise have the same mismatch, of Jesus going in one direction (speaking about his service and sacrifice) and the disciples going in a different one (relating to ambition and pride).

The disciples had their blind spots. I wonder what our blind spots are?

Perhaps we have personal ones – feedback helps us to see these (but please be kind and loving in feedback)

What about church blind spots? The church in South Africa could not see the blind spot with racial segregation, in comparison to the Gospel.

So to recap. The disciples were arguing about who is the greatest – and Jesus the teacher was speaking about giving his life. There was a complete mismatch.

Ask ourselves. What are we completely missing?

Point 2: A child is the example

We live in a topsy-turvy world. In the ancient world, a child had low status. Very low status. They were part of a family, yes, but they had no status and no prestige.

So when the question arose as to who would be the official spokesperson for Jesus, who would he choose? One of the disciples? Someone who had had lots of time with him and been on the mountain, and seen visions?

Actually, no. Jesus says that the one to be his ambassador and the one to be welcomed with the same honour as Jesus himself,

Is a child!

A child can become Jesus’ official representative. Receiving a child can mean receiving Jesus himself. Whoever welcomes a child – someone with no status, someone who needs things done for them – this is the one who welcomes Jesus.

A child is typical of the person who needs things done for them, says Jesus.

Whoever welcomes the poor, the ordinary people, people who have no wealth, no power, people who need things done for them, they are welcoming ME, says Jesus.

And are welcoming God.

Application point 2

Ask ourselves. Do we avoid people who need our help, and instead make friends with those who can do things for us? Make friends with the distinguished person and avoid the poor relation?

“Whoever receives one little child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Said Jesus.

What are we arguing about – who is the greatest?

Ambition to be significant, envy, causes discord among the disciples who don’t want to own up. Jesus is aiming at a different target, the Messiah will die and rise again.

His spokesman is to be the most unexpected – the child, not of high status.

To welcome the poor, the powerless, the undistinguished, is to welcome God himself.

Our underlying attitude may be challenged.

There are plenty of practicalities to take away.

What are our ambitions – are they in line with those of Jesus?

Who will we notice –and spend time with?

What is our underlying attitude?

Can we allow ourselves to be loved by God – which may be an antidote to low self-esteem, envy and ambition?

Jesus offers us himself.

Marion de Quidt, Hook, 20th September 2015.

Resources

Tom Wright. 2001/2003. “Mark for Everyone”.