The First will be Last

Mark 9:33-37

They came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And He took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me.”

So Jesus is walking to Capernaum. And when he reached the house that he would be staying at, he overheard the disciples arguing about something. So he asked them, “What are you arguing about!?”

There was silence! They just got caught in the act. I mean, think about it, they just got caught by Jesus. Of course he knew what they were arguing about… he is Jesus!

So these guys are arguing about who is the greatest. Really a dumb sounding conversation… In my mind, I imagine it looked something like when we were little kids and we were bragging about how better we are then everyone else. Or the old “Mine is better than yours!” fight as a kid.

Jesus knows this and sits down with the disciples and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Jesus doesn’t really condemn them for wanting to be the greatest, instead he kind of says, “your approach here is all wrong.”

Jesus essentially is saying, “If you want to be honored and if you want to be recognized and if you really want to be the greatest, let me tell you how to do it.” It’s not by climbing the ladder, it’s by descending the ladder.


For the disciple’s defense, let me set up the context for you. These guys just came down off of the mount of transfiguration. At the mount of transfiguration, Jesus appeared to them in all of his radiant glory. Not only that, Elijah and Moses, the two OT guys, supernaturally appeared to them.

Think about if you were in this situation. You’ve just spent a year or two with Jesus, hearing Him teach about the coming Kingdom, then all of a sudden you get to see some awesome supernatural feet. If that was me, I would be feeling pretty good about myself. I mean, I would be thinking, “wow! I just saw the most awesome thing ever!”

Think about it this way, look back in your life and think about a time when you got to be part of something amazing. Afterward, did you feel kind of special?

A few years ago, I got to be part of Winter Jam. I volunteered to work the event, basically so I could see Jeremy Camp for free. There were tons of other bands there, but all I wanted to see was Jeremy. Well, I go the neat opportunity to help take up the offering taken up that night to help some starving kids somewhere. Well, through a weird series of events, I found myself backstage with two other guys. After handing off the buckets full of cash, we kind of stayed backstage. We knew we weren’t supposed to be there, but we were. Not only that we got to meet all of the bands as they were coming out to go up on stage. By far the best location in the whole place. The next day, as I met with my friends at lunch, I got to tell them how special I was, in getting to be back stage the whole concert. How I got to do something they didn’t get to do. How I got to experience something they didn’t get to experience.

I was feeling pretty good about myself. I imagine this was how the disciples felt after leaving the mount seeing the superstars Moses and Elijah.

So these guys knew that they got to experience something, no one else on the planet had gotten to experience. They knew that they were selected above everyone else. They felt that they were great, but the question among themselves was “Who’s the greatest?”

The American Way

Which I believe can be much of our focus here. Who’s going to be at the top of the class? Who’s going to be the leading scorer? Who’s going to win the gold metal? It’s just the American way.

I mean, early on as kids, we are enrolled in scoring contest, beauty contest, athletic contest, academic contest…etc.

How many of you guys have a lot of trophies? I used to have a lot of soccer trophies when I was a kid. I used to hang them on my wall, place them on my shelf, and brag to all who entered of my greatness.  My focus was on being the best.

I think that somewhere within us, we think that the way to greatness is through winning, through outdoing everyone else, through receiving the recognition.

So Jesus, just took the American dream and turned it upside down!

He says, “yes, this what you’ve been focusing on. You think this is what life is about, and it’s completely off. I’m telling you this is what life is about. It’s not about getting the best seat in the house. Or getting first place at an event.”

Mark 10:31 says, “But many who are the greatest now will be the least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

If this life is just a breathe, if this life is just a moment, and we have all of eternity to go; then wouldn’t it make sense to live this life with all of eternity in mind? Recognize what Jesus says here in this verse, that those who are considered least here will be greatest in heaven.

Maybe this life is not about self promotion or titles or net worth or autographs or trophies or to be famous, but to go to the back of the line, to give up the best seat in the house, to take your vacation and go on a mission trip, to take your money and buy lunch for someone else, to give of your abundance, to sacrifice something of yours for the betterment of someone else- not expecting anything in return.

You serve in ways that nobody notices, you serve in times where nobody says thank you. You are constantly doing the opposite of what “feels right.”


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