An Unexpected Truth About Becoming Great

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

Mark 9:30-37

The crowds found Jesus’s parables difficult to understand, and even the disciples needed more explanation. But here, in the intimate setting of the secret Galilean trail and the privacy of the home, Jesus uses very direct language. There are no hidden meanings here. He will be betrayed into human hands and be killed.

But, even with the message clearly stated by Jesus, the disciples are so confused by this teaching they are afraid even to ask Jesus what he means. So, instead, as they follow the Messiah through the Galilean hill country into Capernaum, the disciples begin to argue about who will be the greatest.

Just a few verses earlier, these same disciples were terrified at the transfiguration. They had also failed at casting out the demon in the boy for lack of prayer. Now, they are verbally sparring back and forth, trying to decide which one is best.

How often do we find ourselves playing the role of these disciples?

Jesus asks what they were arguing about along the way, but the disciples are silent. And so, Jesus offers further instruction, urging his followers be like children, with no place of honor in this ancient world. Children were powerless, and they lacked status. Children were dependent and vulnerable and in total subjection to a father.

This is the message Jesus is sending to the disciples (and, by extension, to us today): in order to be great, one must become invisible, easily ignored, and subject to the mercy of other people. Just like children. Just like Jesus.


In what ways does our pursuit of power blind us to Jesus’ calling to be like children? In what ways do we still betray Jesus into the hands of humans?


Lord Jesus, forgive me for the times I seek my own purposes, prestige, and power. Humbly shape me more into your image where I am vulnerable and dependent upon you. Guide me into intimate settings away from the crowds. Speak clearly and plainly to me about the way things really are in the world and how I am to respond as you would. Amen.


They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Mark 9:30-37