Reflections on the Gospel for Today – Mark 9:30-37
If anyone thinks that in-fighting and jostling for privilege and power is a recent thing, or something that only happens in Canberra, they’d be mistaken.
In today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus’ disciples doing just that – arguing over which one of them was the greatest.
Like many of Jesus’ stories, this one contains good news, and bad news.
First the good news. Though the disciples were too embarrassed to admit to their behaviour, in the end they did. Jesus didn’t berate them. Instead he gathered them together and explained to them that true greatness isn’t measured by status or power, but by humble service to others.
Jesus wasn’t saying that aspiration to leadership is bad in and of itself, but he was distinguishing between ambition that is egotistical and self-aggrandising, and aspiration that is motivated by a desire to serve others.
The bad news is that we humans, throughout the ages, appear to have not heard what Jesus had to say, or have heard it but too often chosen to ignore it, preferring instead to indulge our “primal instincts” to seek power and status as if therein lies meaning and lasting satisfaction.
But listen to Jesus.
He calls a child, the archetype of powerlessness, vulnerability, trust and dependence.
He holds the child in His arms, and explains that when His followers put aside their quest for power and welcome the vulnerable and powerless in His Name, they will find they have welcomed God.
He’s saying that when we welcome the vulnerable and powerless in Jesus’ Name, we too encounter God.