James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Peace be with you!
During my orientation week at Luther Seminary, I remember one professor saying that the more knowledge you obtained, the more questions you would have, like when a hot air balloon fills up with air the larger the surface area it has. It seems funny – you should have more answers with more knowledge. After three years of seminary and two years of writing devotions, I can honestly say I have more questions now than before. As students, we learn to side-step our questions and keep them internalized for a simple reason: we want to graduate. We want to appear scholarly, like our professors. We forget that some scholar before us probably asked (and answered) a similar question. Of course, his or her answered question probably just led them to yet another question!
Jesus’ proclamation that the Son of Man will be betrayed into human hands to be killed and that he would rise (Mark 9:31) leaves the disciples dumbstruck. What does Jesus mean he says he will be betrayed? Who will betray Jesus? Is it one of the other disciples…or is it me? Why would anyone betray Jesus? How could anyone betray Jesus? To whom would anyone betray Jesus to? The disciples were afraid to ask Jesus these questions. What would Jesus think? Would he mock them for not understanding?
There are questions we as Christians struggle with and internalize too for fear of not knowing the right answer. When is a child ready to take communion? Should infants be baptized? What do we do when Bible passages contradict other passages, like the Gospels and Paul – the role of women in the church? Do the elements of communion – the bread and the wine – have to be blessed by an ordained pastor or can I bless the elements before a meal? Instead of facing the important questions – the ones presenting difficult solutions, the disciples turn their attention to a somewhat more comfortable question: Which disciple was the greatest (Mark 9:34)? They turn their attention away from Jesus and his impending death to who is the greatest among them and who is going to lead them. If Jesus is going to die, who is going to lead us? Who will be Jesus’ successor?
Jesus overhears the disciples’ spat among themselves and asks them what they are arguing about. Of course, the disciples fall quiet as if they know a lecture is coming. It is like when my mom yells from another room, “What are you and brother arguing about?” We both fall quiet because if we told her about our little argument, Mom would be annoyed. The disciples know that if they told Jesus they were arguing about who is the greatest among them that he would be annoyed. However, Jesus uses the opportunity as a teaching moment.
The question is not who is the greatest; rather, the question is who wants to serve. The first will be last and the last first (Mark 9:35). No one person is more important than the next one. A child is just as important as adult. Children and adults each have roles in the community. Adults teach children everything that they know while children take the knowledge and use it to better the world. We should serve each other and live as a community. It is the community that is the greatest, not any individual. Greatness comes not through elevating ourselves but through lowering ourselves to serve one another. And that is just what Jesus has done for us!
Have more questions? Let them keep you in God’s Word. There is always more to learn. As we learn, we can lower ourselves in humility before Jesus.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, We give thanks that Jesus was honest with us, even if we do not always understand what he means. Help us to ask the difficult questions within our families, congregations, and communities. Thank you for being patient with us as attempt to understand what you calling us to do. Thank you that there is always more to discover and learn in your kingdom. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. What questions are you afraid to ask? Why?
2. Where and how do you serve others?