10th April 2023
Read - Mark 9:33-34
Message Alan Burke
Did you hear the wains had a fight on the playground? They were fighting about who’s da was stronger. How about did you hear about the wains falling out about how some of them though Man United was the greatest football club in the history of the world and others thought it was a nonsense? If we heard that there was a fight on the school playground about something like that or that there was a fall out about Man United being the greatest football club in the history of the world it wouldn’t greatly surprise us. When grown men and women fighting about who’s da is stronger or Man United being the greatest football club in the history of the world we might think to ourselves that they need looked at, they need to sort themselves out.
As we once more return to Mark’s gospel we do so in the shadow of the disciples arguing among themselves about who is the greatest and it seems something more suitable to the school playground that it does to grown men but then that is the problem of sin, it leads us to do things that are just plain idiotic. We are not going to get to the response of Jesus to their idiocy today but just focus on the disciples. Look back as we do that to verse 30 as there Jesus had taught his disciples again that he would be delivered into the hands of men, he would be killed and on the third day he would rise again (9:31). The disciples didn’t understand what he meant and they were afraid to ask him (32).
Depending on the translation you have before you depend on how the sentence is parsed. All have a slightly different way of putting it, disputed, arguing, one that I look at says discussing. The greek word means to argue, debate, Jesus is asking them what were they arguing, debating over on the road.
These disciples had just heard their master, their teacher, the one who Peter confessed is the Christ, the long awaited Messiah of God’s people, tell them that he would be betrayed into the hands of men, he would be killed and after three days he would rise and they are on the road afterwards having a barney with one another about who is going to be the greatest. Part of the problem was among the disciples is that their expectations and the reality weren’t in line. Their expectations were of a conquering king, one who would free them from Roman rule, bring about a new earthly kingdom, greater than David’s, they still hadn’t grasped the reality of who Jesus was and what he had came to do. Here the disciples were caught up in their own greatness and they along with the others are trying to figure out the pecking order in the kingdom.
Again and again I find comfort in the disciples of Jesus and I hope that you find comfort in the disciples of Jesus too. While we may might wonder at the disciples idiocy suffice to say none of us are immune to such behaviour even if we are the people of God. What I mean by that is that those who are the followers of Jesus are just as liable to miss the point, get caught up nonsense that is neither here nor there and of no eternal significance.
Jesus to these disciples asks the question, what were you arguing about? He’s not asking them to give him the list of prime numbers from 1 to 1000, this isn’t a complicated question and their answer… Well there is no answer, they simply keep quiet.
I image the scene as they are all red faced, looking to the floor, trying not to make eye contact. The disciples that day were showing themselves in many ways to be no different than those who were on the outside, we have it from sources that who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God was often a debate that was had among rabbis, which of them would be closest to God’s throne.
The disciples were those who were closest to Jesus, they had been with them every waking hour for some years, they had seen him do wonders, they had seen lives changed but they still didn’t get it. Proximity to Jesus didn’t mean that those who followed him understood his teaching. Nor does proximity to the church his people today, sitting under the preached word mean that we will get it, get the gravity of who he is and what he has done. There are things that are essential for us to understand, his death and resurrection for sinners like us, but we will spend a lifetime following him and even then we will never grasp the wonder of who he is and what he has done. One other thing for today, if you have found yourself getting caught up in stuff of no eternal significance making it a major issue the question is why? Brothers and Sisters there are to many of us caught up in the trivial rather than the wonder of the gospel of Christ Crucified for sinners.
Q16 Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.