30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to 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.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
Mark changes the scene – as Jesus and the disciples move on, passing through Galilee. He is avoiding the crowds, for he has important things to teach his disciples. He speaks, for the second time in Mark, of his coming betrayal, death, and resurrection, but still, the disciples do not understand. And now, Mark says, they are afraid to ask him what he means. There are often things in life we do not understand – but we can always take them to God! We may still not understand – but, even then, God will be with us through them; we need not be afraid.
Not only were they arguing among themselves about what those words meant, they were arguing among themselves about who was the greatest among them. Jesus knew what was going on – and he confronted them, “What were you arguing about?” They, of course, hang their heads and do not answer. Jesus sits down, calls the twelve to gather around, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” How many times Jesus repeats this teaching! in all the gospels! We do not become great in the kingdom by thinking we are above other people, by thinking we are the greatest thing since sliced bread! We become “great” in the kingdom by choosing to be less, by serving others.
To make his point, Jesus brought a little child and set it among them, taking it into his arms. He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Stoop down, as Jesus did, to hold and care for the child – greatness comes not in standing up tall and important, but in humbly stooping down. And when we stoop down to the child, we are reaching up to Jesus, and to God the Father.