Are You Really #1?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Mark 9-10

Like all the Gospels, today’s reading in Mark 9-10 is so rich in detail it is impossible to address both chapters in this brief devotional commentary.  Allow me a brief overview of Mark 9-10 before I direct your thoughts to the subject of today’s devotional.

The Transfiguration, where Christ permits his inner circle, Peter, James and John, to see Him robed in the brilliance of His heavenly glory, is recorded in Mark 9:1-13 . (Note – I addressed this event in my devotional commentary on Matthew 17.)

Coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus reunited with His disciples who were in the midst of a great crowd that had gathered to see whether they were able to cast a demon out of a man’s son (Mark 9:14-29).  Later, the disciples questioned why they had been unable to cast the demon out of the man’s son.  Christ’s answer reveals the power of faith and prayer:  “…This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Mark 9:30-32 reminds us that Christ told His disciples on many occasions that He had come, not to establish an earthly kingdom, but to be “delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day” (Mark 9:31). The disciples could not comprehend His revelation and were afraid to inquire what He meant by that statement (9:32).  In Mark 10 Jesus distinctly declared His resolve to go up to Jerusalem to die, promising on the third day He would be resurrected (10:33-34).

So how did His fickle, self-centered disciples respond to Jesus’ prophecy that He must fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah of a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53)?  They turned their thoughts to the question of who would be first, number one, in Christ’s kingdom (Mark 9:33-37; Matthew 20:20-28).

Looking at our world we realize nothing has changed and the church is little different. The words “servant” and “humility” are foreign to our American ideas of success. Striving for #1, climbing the “ladder of success”, counting the number of people who serve your beckoning call is, and has been, the essence of success. Such is not the case in our LORD’s definition of success Who taught His disciples, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all (Mark 9:35).

When Jesus spoke of His death in Mark 8, Peter pulled Him aside and rebuked Him (Mark 8:32).  In Matthew 20, a parallel passage to Mark 10, Jesus confronted His disciples’ desire for power and position when the mother of James and John approached Jesus requesting, “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom” (Matthew 20:21).  The response of the other disciples to her request evidences their own self-centered motivation for following Jesus – earthly power [influence] and position (Mark 10:41; Mathew 20:24).

Two lessons we take from today’s scripture: The first, self-centered ambition blinds one to spiritual truth.  Jesus spoke plainly of His death, but the disciples, blinded by their ambition for thrones in Christ’s kingdom,  “understood not”  (Mark 9:32).  Hearts with divided loyalties wrestle with fear (they were “afraid to ask Him” – 9:32).  Of what were they afraid?  I believe they were afraid to ask questions because the answer Jesus would give would run contrary to their ambitions.  You see, a heart with the wrong focus will struggle emotionally with fear and anxieties (Matthew 6:24; 1 John 2:15).

1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

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A second lesson, Greatness in God’s kingdom is defined by two things:  1) The number of lives you touch, not the number of lives you control;  2) How many you serve – not how many serve you.  Many have observed, “the mark of spiritual maturity is when a believer takes off a bib and dons a servant’s apron.”

Friend, how many are you serving?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith