In today’s passage from St Mark’s Gospel we are drawn into the intimacy of the private conversations between Jesus and His twelve companions. It is surprising to hear that the twelve apostles didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about.
In fact, it would have been almost impossible for them to understand. They had all been brought up to believe that the Messiah would be a powerful political person in Israel who would reinstate their nation as the most important and dominant force in the known world – Even more powerful than the Roman Empire.
The apostles, as we heard last week, believed that Jesus was the Messiah and hence they would ultimately be significant people in the new kingdom of Israel. This led to an argument amongst themselves about who would be the most important, the greatest, in the new kingdom.
There were many things the apostles failed to understand. They were inbued with contemporary notions of what it meant to “be important”. They were much like we are today. They believed that “importance” related to status and power. How mistaken they were!
Jesus, in today’s Gospel, makes it very clear to his twelve friends, just as he makes it clear to us that “importance” has nothing to do with status and power.
The only measure of “importance” is, in fact, the absolute reversal of how the world measures “importance” or “greatness”. The only attribute that makes a person important or great is service.
Don’t look at political or commercial leaders as a model of “importance” or “greatness”. Jesus calls for a reversal of all aspects of such peoples “importance”. He illustrates his point by introducing his friends to a little child. A little child has no guile and no lust for status or power.
The message today is very powerful. If we want to be “first”, we must make ourselves people who “serve” rather than people to seek “to be served”.
We’re invited to serve each other.