Who is the Greatest?

Mark 9: 30-37
Sir 2: 1-11/ Psalm 37

‘Whoever wants to be first must be last and servant of all.’ Then He took a little child and placed him in their midst. Taking him 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 9:35-37)

Blessed are the small and the meek,
Unlike the proud, God hears their call.
Those who serve the poor and the weak
Are for Christ the greatest of all!

Jesus and His disciples began a journey through Galilee, but Jesus did not want anyone to know about it. He was teaching His disciples, and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ They did not understand yet they were afraid to ask Him. Instead, they argued with one another who was the greatest. When they reached Capernaum, Jesus asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then, taking a little child in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives not me but the One Who sent me.’ (Mark 9:30-37)


In a subtle way our Lord employed the example of a little child to chastise and teach His apostles. They were behaving like little children, quarreling among themselves about who was the greatest in their ranks. Jesus had just told them that “The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” (Mk.9:32) The significance of His words could not sink into their consciousness because they were more preoccupied with status and influence as the ‘chosen disciples’ of the Messiah. In the eyes of the Lord, they were all being childish.

The apostles could not accept the idea that persecution, and not liberation was what awaited their Master in Jerusalem. Earlier, Jesus had already told them about this (Mk.8:31), but His foremost apostle, Peter, had strongly objected. They were, to say the least, bewildered. After all that their Messiah had accomplished – building up a following in the thousands, with unimaginable power at His command (even the forces of hell and nature obeyed Him) – here was Jesus talking about His downfall and ignominious death! How could He be talking like this just when greatness was almost at their fingertips? But they were innocent of the true meaning of greatness.

Wrapping His arms around the child, Jesus proclaimed that true greatness lies in our willingness to serve those who are most vulnerable and most powerless, the little ones in our midst. And this is how we welcome Him and the Father (v.37). The child Jesus embraced represents the sick, the hungry, the poor and all disadvantaged people deserving of our care and mercy.

Greatness we have witnessed in times of tragedies and crises. The response from many people all over the world to the environmental disasters happening regularly in many countries bears witness to the greatness in the hearts of many who are willing to help in times of emergencies. All of these heroes will be greatly rewarded, for as our Lord said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me” (Mt.25:40).

Remind me Lord Jesus, whenever the little ones come to me in times of need, that it is You Who is coming to me to give me the opportunity for true greatness. Amen.

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