Devotions for Mark 9:30-37
February 8 – 14, 2016
Monday, February 8, 2016
“The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands” (Mark 9:31a).
The disciples thought they had Jesus figured out. They had been following Jesus for almost three years. Jesus had asked them who they thought he was. Peter had answered for the group when he said, “You are the Messiah!” The disciples thought they knew what that meant. The Messiah would rid Israel of the Roman occupiers and set up God’s kingdom on earth. As close friends of Jesus the disciples thought they might receive positions of power and authority. Oh yes, the disciples had Jesus all figured out—that is until Jesus told them, “The Son of Man was to be betrayed into human hands.”
One of the greatest temptations that we have as disciples of Jesus is to think we can see into the future and know how God is going to act. God is not confined to our plots and plans, nor by our wants and desires. Of course we know that God will consistently demonstrate God’s steadfast love, unconditional forgiveness and overwhelming grace. Beyond that we can only guess. We live in anticipation trusting that wherever the Spirit leads us and whatever challenges we face God will be with us.
Gracious Lord, forgive our feeble attempts to figure you out. Enable us to follow you expectantly with open minds and hearts. Amen.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
“He will rise again” (Mark 9:31b).
When we read Jesus’ words that he will rise again we know what he means. The disciples didn’t have a clue. No one had ever risen from the dead before. The disciples didn’t know how Jesus was going to rise from the dead. They didn’t know what “form” Jesus would be—would he rise with a body, or as a ghost or spirit. They didn’t know what Jesus’ rising would mean for them. The only thing that the disciples could do was to continue to follow Jesus and to see what Jesus meant.
We speculate what life after death will be like, but no one knows—not even those who claim that they have been to heaven and back. We can only trust that when we make that journey from life, to death to life that Jesus will make it with us. Life holds many life after death experiences, though. We die to old jobs and begin new ones and in relationships, places of residence, dreams and lifestyles. When things change and we “die” we don’t know what our new lives will be like. We can only trust that as we go through the death to life experiences of everyday life that Jesus will go with us.
Precious Lord, we do not know what the future holds. As we step into the future help us to rest in you knowing that you are with us. Amen.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
“They did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:32).
We have all been there and done that. It might have been in sex education, math, chemistry or even English. We didn’t understand and we didn’t ask a question because we didn’t want to appear dumb. The result was that we struggled. Lacking that one piece of information prevented us from working the formula or from envisioning what the teacher was attempting to communicate. Life would have been so much easier for us if we had just asked the question.
In the physical world education and experience are important qualifications. We assume that the person with more education and more experience knows and understands more. Things don’t work that way in God’s kingdom. Sometimes the uneducated are more “in tune” with God than the more educated, and there are times when “the children shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Some of us may need to swallow our pride, admit that we do not know and ask the question. Asking questions may be easier for others. Whatever the situation, questions are always appropriate. Once the question is asked we can join together with the young and the old, the educated and the uneducated to seek the answer. As we do so we trust that the divine teacher will give us the knowledge, understanding and wisdom that we need.
All Knowing Teacher, we have many questions. Grant us the ability to learn and give us the knowledge, understanding and wisdom that we need to better serve you and love our neighbor. Amen.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
“’What were you arguing about on the way’” (Mark 9:33)?
While the disciples walked along with Jesus they started to talk about what set them apart. Peter thought that he was distinctive because Jesus had called Peter to be his first disciple and Jesus was always laughing at how Peter continually put his foot in his mouth. Matthew thought that he was the notable because he was the greatest sinner. Jesus had rescued him from a life as a tax collector. Thomas argued that he was obviously the most unique among the disciples because he looked like Jesus—that’s why they called him the twin. Each disciple had a reason to believe that they were better than the other disciples.
We often fall into the same trap as the disciples did. We argue with each other about what sets us apart; what makes us better than the others. We may argue about doctrines, the number of activities in which we are involved, the hours we spend in service or who can find the book of Hosea faster. In the end such arguments are pointless and they certainly aren’t instigated nor encouraged by the Holy Spirit.
What we are invited to do, as disciples of Jesus is to celebrate. We can celebrate that all of us have been adopted by God and brought into God’s family. We can celebrate that we have all been called to be disciples of Jesus. Opportunities for service, no matter how varied they are, can be celebrated along with our fellowship and common bonds of One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism. Celebrations provide us with opportunities to give thanks and praise to God and to appreciate the gift of life that each of us has been given.
Oh Lord our God, forgive our petty bickering. Instead of talking about what divides us, help us to celebrate what unites us. Amen.
Friday, February 12, 2016
“They had argued with one another who was the greatest” (Mark 9:34).
Shakespeare wrote that life is a stage and all the men and women are merely players. Others see life as a jungle. Perhaps the most common perception of life is that it is a game and we are all competing to be number one. The problem is that we don’t know how to tally the score. Is wealth really a slam dunk over contentment? Do we move the ball father with a new house or a fancy, new car? Is a teacher only a bunt, while a CEO is a grand slam? Who has the most points—the executive reading the Wall Street Journal while having his shoes polished at the airport terminal, or the man polishing the executive’s shoes?
The disciples were trying to determine who was the greatest among them and they ran into the same problem that we all do—“How do we keep score?” Jesus put an end to their argument (at least temporarily) by telling the disciples that life is not a game. Life is not about who’s number one. Life is one fantastically huge opportunity to serve. The service field is level. We are all children of God. As God’s children and disciples of Jesus we use our talents and abilities along with the blessings with which we have been blessed to help others, to bear their burdens and to share God’s love and grace with them.
Holy Father (Parent), forgive our competitiveness when we use it not to achieve excellence but rather to build ourselves up and to put others down. Direct our attention away from “who’s first” and towards “who can we serve.” Amen.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
Jesus’ words are not appealing to us. They are not exciting like, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” His words are realistic and practical. In the right-side-up world of the kingdom of God, Jesus’ words remind us that serving is more important than being served. We have mixed emotions about service.
Many of us have been punished by having to do acts of service. Children who disrupt classes have to clean the white boards. Recruits who disobey their drill sergeants are given the opportunity to clean the latrines. First time offenders are sentenced to a number of hours of community service.
At the same time, we like companies who give us good service. Restaurant reviews often say more about the service than they do the food. We patronize businesses with higher prices if they give us good service. Service is important. It can make or break a business. Enterprises that truly succeed are those that go beyond displaying a sign that says, “People before profits.” They are the ones who have discovered the joy of serving.
Serving is hard. It is humbling, demanding and at times frustrating. Frequently service is thankless. Yet, service can be enjoyable and meaningful. There is a deep sense of satisfaction in helping to make other people’s lives better and an exhilaration in seeing them catch a glimpse of God’s love and grace. When we take our attention off ourselves and focus it on the needs of others we begin to understand why Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
God of Power and Might, we have tried to be first and to be served. Now give us the will and the ability to strive to be last and to serve with equal vigor. Amen.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Mark 9:38).
All of the major faiths teach that it is virtuous to give to the poor and to help the needy. Jesus, however puts a different slant on giving and serving. Several times Jesus tells his followers that when we give to others or serve them that we actually are giving and serving Jesus. (Check out Matthew 25:31-46.) Our gifts and our service are truly offerings to God.
Jesus goes beyond merely giving and serving. He challenges his followers to discover those who are invisible, ignored and neglected and serve them. At the time of Jesus children were not people. They were rather commodities. Society preferred them to be invisible. People who were seriously sick were separated from others so their sickness would not spread. They were ignored. Widows and orphans were often neglected.
The invisible, ignored and neglected are not rare, but rather simply hard to see. We have to be looking for them if we are going to find them. In our search we may discover a single parent trying to do it all, someone who is under employed trying to make ends meet or a co-worker trying to pick up the pieces of a life that has fallen apart. Welcoming these people and others like them into our lives reminds us that discipleship is more than singing hymns, or making sure that the church building has new carpet. Discipleship is love in action.
Dear Lord, you have shown us what great love is. Empower us to love in such a way. Amen.