At this point in Mark chapter 9 Jesus is at the point of healing a young man who is deaf and dumb and who has been tormented by an evil spirit. The disciples had not been able to help this young man. One reason for their inability was their lack of faith. Another reason is given in the next few verses. The Bible says in Mark 9:25-29, “When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuke the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him; and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, he is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”
In verse 19 when it was stated that the disciples could not help the young man, Jesus said, “O faithless generation.” In other words their own inability was related to their lack of faith. Here in verse 29 Jesus said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” There is a relationship between faith, and prayer and fasting. When we pray we are exercising our faith because we are lifting up our voices and requests to God. After we have prayed we see what God does in response to our prayers and then our faith grows. Fasting in the Bible refers to giving up some normal human function, especially eating, in order to put spiritual things first. Most human beings have a routine of some sort: a schedule that involves eating and sleeping, working and resting, entertainment and hobbies. From time to time there may come some great spiritual challenge into your life, and you may need to pray instead of eat. Hopefully you will recognize when that time is, so that you will be able to face that challenge with faith. You do not want to fail at the challenge and then have Jesus say to you, “O faithless generation.”
The Bible says in Mark 9:30-32, “And they departed from there, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.” Jesus wanted the disciples to be prepared for the future and so He taught them. There may be some difficult times ahead in your life. What is one of the best ways to be prepared for those times? Make sure that you learn from Jesus the things that He wants you to know. Jesus told the disciples once again that He was going to be killed. What is the best way to be prepared for death, your own death or that of a loved one? Remember the promise of Christ for life after death. Concerning His own death He said, “And after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.”
The Bible says in Mark 9:33-34, “And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that you disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.” The dispute that the disciples had showed that they were still too much like ordinary humans and not enough like the followers of Jesus need to be. They disputed among themselves who should be the greatest. One of the characteristics of the people of this earth is their competitive nature. This competition between human beings can easily turn negative. The desire to get ahead of someone else has caused people to lie, to cheat, and to deceive. The wrong kind of competition has destroyed teamwork and poisoned relationships.
Another problem with the spirit of human competition is found in the fact that it goes contrary to the philosophy of life that Jesus wants His followers to have. The Bible says in Mark 9:35, “And he sat down and called the twelve, and said unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all.” The world would never understand or accept this teaching of Jesus. It’s contrary to the way that they think. Not only does the world desire to be first, often the world’s system only rewards or values those that come in first. So, the world has a very bad system. The system of the world is such that there are few winners and many losers. Many things in the system of the world is designed around this concept. Children are taught from a very young age that they must come in first to receive the greatest prize and the greatest honor. Often with such a system effort and ability are not properly evaluated. This importance placed on coming in first sometimes puts undue stress on individuals, and pushes others to deceive and to cheat.
What is really important in the measuring of human effort? Is coming in first the best gauge possible of performance? Should people be evaluated based upon how well they did compared to others or should they be evaluated based upon how well they did compared to their own abilities and talents? Surely, it’s the latter and not the former. What really matters is how well you do compared to the abilities that have been given to you. That’s how you will be judged by God at the judgment. God has given you certain abilities and talents. You might have less talents or more than someone else. But you will not be compared to them. You will be compared to yourself: what you could have done had you done your best.
Let’s take the example of two students: one gets all Cs and the other gets all As and one B. Let’s say that the one who gets all Cs does his best and dedicates his efforts to the Lord, but the one who got mostly As could have done better and did not properly dedicate his efforts to the Lord. Which one out-performed the other? According to the standards of the world, the one who got mostly As outperformed the one who got all Cs. But according to God who knows the true state of these individuals, the one who got all Cs greatly outperformed the other.
Don’t ever forget that Jesus said, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all.” One of the problems with desiring to be first is that such a desire feeds and nurtures the selfish instincts. You remember what Jesus said in Mark 8:34, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself…” You cannot deny yourself if you desire to be first. One of the problems with the world is that someone has to be willing to lose for the good of the whole. If the number one priority is always to grab and to obtain as much as you can and as soon as you can: in other words to be first; then all will be lost because everyone will see their neighbor as an enemy and a competitor.
In Mark 9:35 Jesus told the disciples how to become first in God’s eyes. The Bible says, “And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” Instead of desiring to be first with some great human desire that envelops so many people, be willing to be last. To do this you must empty yourself of your own personal desires. Jesus did it by desiring to do the will of the Father instead of His own will, and that’s the only way that you also will be able to do it. Jesus did it by giving His life in service to others, and that is the only way that you will be able to do it. Listen to what is said of Jesus in Philippians 2:7: “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”
View yourself as a servant. If you want to know the will of God for your daily activities, then view yourself as a servant. Find out whom around you in your circumstances that you should be serving, and serve them. This formula for life works in a very practical way, and it’s no wonder since it came from Jesus. If you are a husband, serve your wife. If you are a wife, serve your husband. If you are employed, serve your customers and your coworkers. Jesus came to give His life, not to take. Jesus came to minister, not to be ministered to; and so should you.
In case the disciples did not understand what Jesus said about their dispute concerning who should be the greatest, Jesus taught them by way of example. The Bible says in Mark 9:36-37, “And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” There was something about this child that the apostles needed to know.
First, let’s look at what took place between Jesus and this child. We see that Jesus took the child into His arms. By the way, if you want to learn how to be the best parent that you can possibly be, then follow the example that Jesus gave in interacting with children. Several times in the gospels Jesus met children or talked about children. If you understand what was going on and what was being taught in each of those situations, then you will know how to be the best possible parent. In this situation Jesus took the child in his arms. The hands and the arms of Jesus were not used to strike the child, but to hold, caress, and protect the child. Make sure you do the same with your children.
By taking the child into his arms Jesus was reminding the disciples and reminding you and me that we are like children totally dependent upon His care for us. If we will remember that, we will not be disputing among ourselves who should be the greatest. None of us is great. Only Jesus is great, and we are His children dependent upon what He does for us.
Jesus said to the disciples, “Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” Maybe Jesus was saying to the disciples to stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about others and the needs of others. Think about children and what they need. Don’t think so much about the current generation of which you are a member. Think instead of the next generation of which children are members. Jesus said that the children need to be received. Instead of being rejected, children need to be welcomed and accepted for what they are: a bundle of great potential. If only the little children will be protected and taught and pointed in the right direction.
Of course, you do not just receive the child, you receive the child in the name of Jesus. There is a connection between Jesus and who He is and your attitude towards children. You understand that children need Jesus and they need to hear about Jesus. The entire course of their lives will be determined by their relationship with Jesus. How sad and wasted the road will be if some child comes into the world and no one tells them about Jesus. How many lives became twisted and depraved and how many crimes have been committed simply because of the children that no one told about Jesus. How much better they could have been if only someone told them about Jesus: if only someone received them in the name of Jesus.
What is at stake is this: coming to know God. A human being can either go through life separated from God or united with God in a close and meaningful relationship. The difference is Jesus. Jesus is God manifest in the flesh. If you have seen Christ, you have seen the Father. If you know Christ, you know the Father. If you receive Christ, you receive the Father. Perhaps no one received you in the name of Jesus when you were a child, but at least you can receive Jesus now. Today, if you will harden not your heart, you can come to know Him. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Should this event take place in your heart and your life, then this also takes place that Jesus stated in Mark 9:37, “Whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.”
Copyright; 2002 by Charles
F. (Rick) Creech
All Rights Reserved