The football team had not won a game all year. The coach comes in and finds the team arguing. “What’s going on here?” “Oh nothing much, coach. We were just discussing which one of us is likely to win the Most Valuable Player award for the conference this year.”
The company vice-president crawled the sales manager for low sales last month. Unless something is done, heads are going to roll. A half-hour later, the sales manager walks in on his sales staff right in the middle of a brouhaha. “What are you arguing about?” he asks. “Not a big thing,” one of the men says. “We were wondering which one of us is up for Salesman of the Year.”
The Lord Jesus arrived at Capernaum and entered the house where He and the disciples stayed. Now that He had them aside from the crowd, the Lord had a question for them.
“What were you discussing among yourselves back down the road?”
As if He didn’t know.
No one said a word.
What this ragtag bunch of disciples had been discussing was which one of them was the greatest. Who would be given the place of highest honor in the new thing Jesus was planning. Who was the MVP.
It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Consider the context of this little incident.
The stumbling, bumbling disciples had to this point not distinguished themselves in anything of a spiritual nature. In this 9th chapter of Mark alone, we see plenty of evidence for their ineptitude….
On the mount of Transfiguration, when Peter, James, and John were privileged to see Moses and Elijah conferring with Jesus, and while they beheld the Lord transfigured in front of their very eyes, Peter decided he just had to say something. He did not know what to say, for they were afraid.
But he still said something. “Lord, it’s so good to be here. Let’s build three tabernacles up here on the mountaintop–one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Surely, he must have thought, Jesus would be honored to be among such an august group.
The voice that came from Heaven stopped Peter in his tracks: “This is my beloved Son! Hear Him!” (9:1-13)
At the base of the mount of Transfiguration, the remaining disciples were faring no better. A man had brought his demon-troubled son to them for healing, and they had proven to be ineffective ministers. (9:14-24)
When Jesus spoke of going into Jerusalem and being betrayed, then executed, the disciples did not get it at all. They did not understand this statement and were afraid to ask. (9:30-32)
Then, the Apostle John informed the Lord that they had seen a man doing miracles in Jesus’ name–but he wasn’t following us. So, we told him to stop that foolishness! (9:38)
Earlier, when Jesus had mentioned going into Jerusalem where He would be killed and would rise again, Peter took Him aside for a tongue-lashing. “Now, Lord, you get this negative talk out of your head! We are not going to let this happen to you!” But Jesus was having none of that.
“Get behind me, Satan,” he told Peter. “You do not comprehend the things of God; you’re looking at this through the eyes of man.”
One wonders that the disciples did not get discouraged at all their futile attempts to get on Jesus’ wave length. They comprehended so little, they were puzzled by so much, they were constantly getting up and trying again, only to stumble over their own feet time after time.
We wonder too at the infinite patience of our Lord. On one occasion, however, He does ask the question that must have been eating at Him. “How long will I put up with you?!” (9:19)
One reason we believe the Lord must have a wonderful sense of humor is His patience with disciples such as those twelve—and like you and me.
As any teacher or coach can tell you, when the team or class constantly drives you up the wall, you laugh or lose your sanity. Laughing is a better choice.
There are lessons here for those of us chosen to be disciples.
1) We will make mistakes. Apparently, the Lord allows that. And how good is that? “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14). God’s rule is clearly not one mistake and you’re out.
2) We are expected to grow. God’s patience is long for those who are just starting out and trying to learn His ways. But for those of us who have been on the team for a couple of seasons or more, He expects better. Like a good coach, the Lord looks to us to mentor the younger players just coming up.
3) Maturity is often seen by how it behaves when one is not sure how to behave. Here are some lessons suggested by the events throughout Mark 9.
—When you do not know what to say, be quiet. Silence is golden.
—When you do not know what to do, pray. Cal on the Father.
—When you do not know how to treat a brother, love him. Love is always in order.
—And, when you cannot understand what the Lord is doing, trust Him. Trust and obey, for there is no better way.