Jesus asks us a very crucial question. A question of the cross! “What were you arguing about?” Let’s look at this question in the context of the whole story (Mark 9.30-37)
The Gospel starts with Jesus, journeying with the disciples, making their way through Galilee. Looking at this in it’s place in scripture we know that Jesus was on his way south, to Jerusalem, to his eventual crucifixion. So it is not a surprise that he is preparing his followers for the reality of what he will face. Maybe he is also suffering in his own way, thinking and talking about it, and wanting his disciples to realize the gravity of this journey. Maybe he wants them to understand the pain in the reality that he is facing. In response to this, however, his followers were confused and afraid to ask him about it. We hear further on that they were arguing and discussing about which of them was the greatest.
Where do we turn when we face the reality of the cross, of dying to ourselves, or even death? Where do our thoughts go? What do we focus on? What do we discuss? Jesus’ disciples are not so different from us. In facing the reality of the cross, and the pain and confusion it would hold, the disciples turned inwards. Instead of empathizing with Jesus, or even asking for clarification so that they could possibly identify with him, they were discussing which of them was the greatest.
Honestly, it is a sad and embarrassing reality that so many of us, and I speak first of myself on this, who call ourselves disciples seek to preoccupy much of our lives with things that are futile and of little real importance in life. We busy ourselves with the things and the worries of this world.
Do the things that matter most to God take priority in our lives? Such as salvation, what is true and virtuous, and prayer, to name a few? This is the question that Jesus asks his disciples, that he asks us today! “What are you discussing?” Yes, what ARE we thinking about as we make our journey?
The reality of the cross is that there is power there, yes there is pain also, there is uncomfortability, but when we embrace it and get over ourselves, when we identify with Christ and come with him on the journey, its power transforms our hearts. Instead of looking to ourselves we start looking to how we can serve, how we can sacrifice, how we can be more like the one who took the cross for us.
A phrase that comes to mind that sums this up so well is, “I am third.” It is this simple line that we can repeat when we catch ourselves getting distracted with ourselves. God is first, others are second, I am third. It is this that will lead us to experience and encounter true joy.
It really is a paradox, that we must let go of ourselves so that we may be fully ourselves. To be the last of all, the servant of all, that we might be first in eternal life.
So let us ponder, in a special way today; What are we discussing? This is the question that prepares us for the cross. Both the pain and the power of it. What am I making a priority? What are we thinking about and talking about as we make our way through life? Answer the Lord honestly and let Him go to work.
Wisdom 2.12, 17-20
James 3.16 – 4.3